Saturday, November 24, 2012

Soldiers, Draft-Dodgers, and Deserters


As a citizen of Israel, I will be sending my son(s) to the army. Frankly, it terrifies me, and my children. In fact, for this very reason, I renounced my son's Israeli citizenship at birth (at the time, I was not Israeli, and so I could do that.) But I've come to recognize that it's not a matter of whether it fits in with our plans; it's a matter of having an obligation to our country.

Most charedim do not serve in the army. Their alleged reason for this is that they allegedly believe that their Torah studies perform a vital service for the country. True, it involves much less mesiras nefesh, but it provides metaphysical protection that would supposedly be fatally compromised if they were to take off several months to train and serve in a military capacity.

Let's take them at their word, for now. And let us ask a question: Is this metaphysical protection that their Torah provides, something that is spread equally for Jews throughout the world? Or is it most concentrated in the places where they are?

It seems that the latter is the case. The Yerushalmi, Chagigah 1:7, speaks about teachers of Torah being the protectors of the city - i.e., their city. In general, reason indicates that if one accepts the concept of zechus - merits created by good deeds - that they spread outwards, decreasing in intensity with distance. A person's merits are strongest for his immediate family, and for those in his town. For righteous people to have saved Sodom, they would have had to have been living in Sodom.

The charedi world agrees. The Chazon Ish, and, yibedal lechaim, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, said that Bnei Brak is safe from missiles. The Torah study of that town apparently protects it, and it alone. Likewise, when the 300-strong Grodno yeshivah relocated from Ashdod to Bet Shemesh last week due to the war in the South, a prominent Torah scholar in Bet Shemesh was quoted in the Chadash weekly as stating that "We have no doubt that the efforts of the residents of Bet Shemesh, such that the sound of Torah should not cease from one yeshivah, is the 'iron dome' of the city; it is the true protection, and the cause that our residents have not been part of the bloodshed." The merits of those facilitating Torah study provide protection that is greatest in its immediate locale.

Well, if that's the case, why didn't they stay in Ashdod?

If their whole excuse for not serving the military is that they provide metaphysical protection, then why can't they provide it where it's needed? Bet Shemesh was never at serious risk (and nor was Bnei Brak). It's Ashdod, where the Grodno yeshivah was housed, that needs protection! If charedim believe that they are protecting the country with their Torah, then let them do it! The yeshivos should be relocating from Bnei Brak and Jerusalem to the South, not the other way around!

In the previous Gulf War, Rav Elyashiv reportedly said that Tifrach yeshivah should stay put and rely on the protection that its Torah provides, but Grodno, which is in the much more dangerous town of Ashdod, should relocate, since one cannot pray for a miracle. Okay, so it's more dangerous; but isn't that even more reason for them to stay, and help protect the residents? Soldiers don't go where it's safest; they go where they are needed to protect the population!

Adding insult to injury is that not only do charedim avoid bearing their share of the security burden; they demand that others take even greater risks. The cover of Mishpachah magazine this week asked "Will Israel stop short again?" which, as a friend pointed out, translates to their demand for the IDF to keep fighting. The newspaper Mekor Rishon conducted a survey of different sectors of the population asking if the IDF should have taken the dangerous step of sending ground troops into Gaza; the sector of the population in which the most said yes was the charedi sector (at 58%). They don't want to risk the lives of their own children; only the lives of other peoples' children!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I don't think that even charedim really believe that their Torah provides protection; they avoid army because it threatens their lifestyle, and they don't see themselves as having much of a responsibility to the country. They are just draft-dodgers. But if one does believe that their Torah provides protection - that they are not avoiding the draft, but are instead serving in the army of Hashem - then their actions during war reveal that they are deserters.

71 comments:

  1. Yea, but their are other issues involved. The I.D.F. is not a fully Jewish army but a bastion of Hellenists influencing the minds of its young soldiers. Most people leave the army NOT Shomer Misswoth. + if you or anyone uses the excuse of "Milhemit Misswah" (Yes it is an obligation) then why would you also be the one's who would condemn any Jew who would pick up a gun or anything else and make attacks against enemies of Am-Yisrael as certainly that would fit into the category of Milhemit Misswah? Why are you selective as it certainly is a Misswah even today.

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  2. "The Yerushalmi, Chagigah 1:7, speaks about teachers of Torah being the protectors of the city - i.e., their city."

    The Bavli too maintains this belief (specifically R. Yochanan BB 7b-8a; other commentaries as well bring additional opinions of this belief from Chazal in various sources, i.e. Gemara, Zohar).

    Now, if I'm not mistaken in my understanding of your skepticism of the Yerushalmi and your overall query about the rationale for 'The Torah Study Protector', you would likewise be asking (and you basically are just not as straight out): If one positions himself in front of a rocket, opens a gemara and starts learning, would he too be shielded? Or better yet, if a group of Chachamim were transplanted to Somalia, opened up a kollel and started learning would that help their civil strife? Come on Rabbi, you really consider this one "Rationalist Judaism"?. (Although, interestingly enough, some would argue that indeed depending on one's own level of bitachon in God, he too can be saved from "certain death encounters").

    According to your logic however, and perception of the Yerushalmi you quoted, why is Tanach and Chazal replete with cases that whenever Jews were in a dangerous situation they were instructed to take normal defensive precautions and, at times, even offensive initiatives were in order? Why weren't they instructed to go shteig (learn)?

    I think this link (http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=15007&st=&pgnum=281&hilite=) would do great justice if you honestly are looking for a clear and thorough examination and understanding of "the Yerushalmi" perspective. For an even more thorough analysis, see responsas Harei Yehuda from (Yosef, vol. 2, pg. 279 and on) Aderet Tiferet (Duri, vol. 4, pg. 259).

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  3. I don't think that anybody is proposing that learning Torah is automatic protection from all danger. Or that anyone thinks that anyone else is proposing that. Rather, the proposal is that it provides a certain degree of protection - significant enough that it's more important than spending a few months in the army.

    If you're going to say that whenever there is hezek kavua (clear and present danger), learning Torah doesn't help at all, then what's the point of their learning Torah in such circumstances? Better that they should be in the IDF under such circumstances - that certainly helps! And if you're going to say that it still helps somewhat, albeit not guaranteed effective, then let them stay (and travel to) dangerous areas, to help somewhat, just as soldiers do!

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  4. I don't really understand...

    Yes, it protects, yes, it may be focused on where you are/the people closer to you (I don't really see why that should depend on distance at all. Does my kid become less eligible to be the beneficiary of my zchusim because he moves far away?), and yes people shouldn't take unnecessary risks. Therefore the chareidim feel that yes, their learning protects, and yes, there is a mitzvah of v'cahi bahem which requires them to relocate if their position is very dangerous.

    The 2 don't contradict each other.

    It seems to me the argument you presented is based on the assumption that the supreme protection is based on location. Therefore they should choose to stay where they are.

    But that conclusion isn't true. if you can, you are chayav to protect life (and the fact that it's your life doesn't make it any less valuable!), and also I don't think you really have reason to think this has anything to do with location of the learner...

    I've never heard it has anything to do with location. (And yes, I know the gemara in BB which talks about their city, but that is obviously no proof, because it's talking about whether they pay taxes for the defenses of their city. I haven't seen the yerushalmi inside, but have heard it quoted, and the quote I heard makes it very obvious that you couldn't bring a proof from there because it's clearly discussing a particular city. If I can, I'll check inside).

    It makes sense that the gilui k'vod shamayim caused by someone is first and foremost relevant to him, then his kids, close friends, etc., spreading outward. But that has nothing to do with location.

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  5. 1. What I wrote is predicated on the notion that the supreme location is based on location. I think that I have adequately demonstrated that this is the case; and also that the charedim believe this to be the case.

    2. Yes, people should not take personal risks. However, Israel is under constant threat, and as a result, people are conscripted to take risks and defend the rest of the country.

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  6. We once asked our charedi neighbour why he did not send his sons to the army. His response in short was, why should his sons not have the same right to learn as their piers, why should they miss out.

    Isn't that the case for all Israelis? Following their mandatory military service, most Israelis go to university to further their education.

    As you say, is a few months/years of their lives going to affect their lifelong learning?

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  7. "I don't think that anybody is proposing that learning Torah is automatic protection from all danger"

    Then maybe I did misunderstand you, because suggesting "yeshivos should be relocating from Bnei Brak and Jerusalem to the South, not the other way around" seemed somewhat contrary to what your proposing now. Again, telling those sitting engrossed in Torah study to "stay (and travel to) dangerous areas, to help somewhat, just as soldiers do!" is just not a sensible suggestions if in the same breadth you believe their Torah study is "not guaranteed effective". And if you'll argue, "well hey, neither is a trained army guaranteed protection", oh come one, how practical or rational is it to join the police force or the army "whenever there is hezek kavua"? No one said in a time of danger "learning Torah doesn't help at all". That, and learning Torah in a safer haven and taking one's self out of harms way is two completely different reactions.

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  8. Every Western country has granted deferments to theology students and clergy, including yeshiva students and rabbanim, even in time of war. A Jewish state needs a certain percentage who are learning full time. Te fact that not all are in this category is another matter.

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  9. And if you'll argue, "well hey, neither is a trained army guaranteed protection", oh come one, how practical or rational is it to join the police force or the army "whenever there is hezek kavua"?

    That's exactly what the army does! When there is danger, they go in, at risk to themselves, and defend others!

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  10. Every Western country has granted deferments to theology students

    That's completely different from granting blanket exemption to an entire community.

    even in time of war.

    Not when it's a war for survival. And certainly in halachah, such a war requires everyone to serve.

    A Jewish state needs a certain percentage

    What percentage? According to the charedim, it's limitless.

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  11. This is one of the logical flaws in Chareidi philosophy.
    On one hand, they simply cannot go to the army. Israel needs the protection their Torah study provides.
    On the other hand, when the rockets fly they're the first to run. Thus, as you pointed out, they don't even believe what they preach.
    But wait, there's the next step. Judaism preaches honesty. If a Chareidi really doesn't believe that his Torah study is protective but insists on his army deferral because he has to publicly say it is, isn't all his learning based on a lie? And what is the worth of such learning?

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  12. And who says it's the Torah of 20 year olds that sustain a country?

    Why not let the 20 year olds fight and arrange that the rest of the charedi community -- especially retirees -- learn 24/7?

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  13. Moshe said:
    ' Why are you selective as it certainly is a Misswah even today.'

    Why? Because today their is a government in Israel and fighting a war is its function. Terror only damages our common cause. This is why.

    I agree with the post but will you stop publicizing how terrified you are of your sons serving in the army? Why do you keep saying it? You are demoralizing others.

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  14. "That's exactly what the army does! When there is danger, they go in, at risk to themselves, and defend others"

    Bingo! You know why they do that? Because that's what they train for while people sitting immersed in Torah study do not! Now "whenever there is hezek kavua (clear and present danger)" you expect these regular untrained civilians to do what? It's absurd to even entertain such a notion. Your only question can be generally speaking, 'why not go do full army service?', but that's not what you asked in your post.

    The amount of illiterate garbage this post can generate (and already did, as I see now while posting this comment) is frustrating. Many who'll debate and challenge "Chareidi philosophy" will at the same time clearly demonstrate in their arguments that they don't even begin to understand the "Chareidi's" principles on a plethora of philosophical and religious traditions. Being an intellectual and familiar with many nice Jewish oriented studies does not make one an authority on Jewish "logical flaws" without being fluent in it's wide range of basic and classic literature.

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  15. Because that's what they train for while people sitting immersed in Torah study do not! Now "whenever there is hezek kavua (clear and present danger)" you expect these regular untrained civilians to do what?

    To remain in their yeshivah (if they are already in the South) or to travel there (if they are not in the South). The only training required is to know how to sit and learn.

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  16. In his sichah on parshat Veyetzei in Volume 5 of Likutei Sichot (9 Kislev 7725), the Lubavitcher Rebbe speaks of the protective power of a tzaddik in a city, based on the Rashi discussing Yaakov leaving Be'er Sheva, and referring as well to Hashem promising to save Sedom if tzaddikim are found in it.

    There he states that a tzaddik's protection extends more fully to his immediate surroundings than it does to more distant localities.

    Of course, this raises the question of what is considered a tzaddik in such a context.

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  17. "We have no doubt that the efforts of the residents of Bet Shemesh, such that the sound of Torah should not cease from one yeshivah, is the 'iron dome' of the city; it is the true protection, and the cause that our residents have not been part of the bloodshed."

    Moshe, Ovadya, jk, Avi K et. al. -

    Do you agree with the above statement, or would you say (as I do), that it is just Haredi propaganda not meant to taken seriously?

    If Hamas decided to bombard Beith Shemesh with rockets, would the Haredim sit content with their metaphysical iron dome, or would they demand the more mundane physical one?

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  18. While I generally agree with the sentiment of your post I believe that the argument based on the examples given may be flawed. Is the Yeshiva of Grodno 'the rest of the world'? Meaning, does every Yeshiva in the south close down and does every torah scholar flee to cities out of range?

    I don't believe this is the case. True you have cited authorities who invite them to do so, but the fact that the overwhelming majority do not behave this way would lead me to believe they are relying on other equally valid authorities.

    from one examples of 'deserters' I don't think it is fair to cast aspersions on an entire segment of the Jewish world.

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  19. Natan,

    You hit the nail on the head.

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  20. Rabbi Slifkin wrote:"the sector of the population in which the most said yes [to a ground invasion of Gaza] was the charedi sector (at 58%). They don't want to risk the lives of their own children; only the lives of other peoples' children!"

    I can't be 100% certain, but I think Agudah's voting policy on issues of defense is usually to abstain, since a vote in favor of a military operation would be viewed as hypocritical, as Rabbi Slifkin notes. So it doesn't really matter what the majority of charedim think--their representatives in the Knesset will not vote in favor of a move that endangers the soldiers.

    However, in this case of ridding ourselves of Hamas, who will just use a cease fire to acquire even longer range missles--I don't know of any other way to do it other than a land invasion [other than cutting off all their electricity, gas and water until they surrender--but that will be branded as "collective punishment"].

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  21. Garnel says:

    Judaism preaches honesty. If a Chareidi really doesn't believe that his Torah study is protective but insists on his army deferral because he has to publicly say it is, isn't all his learning based on a lie? And what is the worth of such learning?

    It's obvious that the worth of their learning is that it protects them from the dangers of army service!

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  22. Why didnt the Torah study help the Slabodka yeshiva in the Hebron pogrom of 1929?

    In any event, it is the charedi community that comes out very much the loser. "Every man thinks mean of himself for not having been a soldier." (Dr. Samuel Johnson.) So true. Would that I could do it all over again, and had been mature enough, parental consent, logistics, etc, I would have gone to the army after high school. Yes, of course, easy to say now. But that is the whole point. For the rest of your life, you regret the lost opportunity. Nothing in the world would make me prouder than seeing my boys in the IDF. Worried every moment, of course. But prouder than a peacock.

    Despite half-hearted contentions from the Charedi world otherwise about being proud of yeshivah bachurim, words that they themselves dont even believe, nothing even comes close. Everyone ought to stand up for a soldier. A yeshivah bachur is just another yeshivah bachur.

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  23. Every yeshiva student should have a specific name of a soldier he's praying for. If anything should happen to that soldier, the yeshiva student gets drafted.

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  24. Not to be the party pooper, but learning Talmud doesn't really protect you at all.

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  25. Okay, so it's more dangerous; but isn't that even more reason for them to stay, and help protect the residents?

    No, I don't think so. The statement attributed to R. Elyashiv clearly shows that he didn't believe that Torah learning offers complete protection. Yes, it offers a "zechut" which could potentially stave off harm, but once the point of genuine "sakana" is reached, Torah learning is no longer an effective defense. At that point, either you have to fight or leave. And since yeshiva students aren't "fighters", they're told to leave.

    In fact, you might say that it's better for them to go somewhere where their zechut can be effective, so that more cities aren't put into harm's way.

    I say this to show how someone can hold such a position without necessarily being self-contradictory. But of course I'm with you in the bigger picture. The "Torah=protection" philosophy is a transparently self-serving rationale.

    It is the dictionary definition of being so "nogea b'davar" that you can't see past your own sefer!

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  26. Once again, there are way too many people reading too deeply into this post, almost as if they have an agenda to jump at the chance of Chareidi bashing.

    Let's leave at the door any supposed philosophy, logic or flawed logic and any other psychoanalysis that's conjured up here. Let me now try to put the discussion in simple terms without oblique expression:

    Learning Torah is one of the most important elements of Judaism. One of the great powers of the Torah is that it protects a person from physical [and non-physical] harm, so said Chazal (actually the Bible itself, but that's not the focus here now). Yet, those same Chazal also told us not to make one's self into a human shield and depend on Torah study alone. No, don't climb into a cannon and become a human projectile while holding a gemara, that's idiocy, not an act of faith. And don't either get up from your studying and join the police force every time there's clear and present danger on your block if you don't know the first thing about combat. Then why learn Torah at all? Because it DOES shield, and that's what we believe, we just don't know exactly to what extent - that's up to God. We have to do our part, get out of harm's way but keep studying where ever you go. The world NEEDS Torah study in order to exist.

    Natan, to the question "whenever there is hezek kavua (clear and present danger)" you expect these regular untrained civilians to do what?", you replied: "To remain in their yeshivah (if they are already in the South) or to travel there (if they are not in the South."

    Besides for not looking into the references I cited earlier (which I can't understand why not if you'r honestly looking to understand the Torah view) you keep acknowledging the main point but then simply keep misrepresenting it too. YOU DO NOT RUN TOWARDS DANGER, ne-ku-dah. Clear enough?

    So again, either you believe Torah study helps or you don't. If you believe it helps then you must also understand that as much as it does you should not put yourself into a sakanah, more so, if you are in clear and present danger then get out of it! Yes, Torah study helps and is NECESSARY at ALL times, whether or not in a time of danger.

    If this is a way of vindicating your son's going to the army, you should know that you don't need vindication. Good for you for sending him and great for him for joining. Much respect to him. But there's certainly no need to battle the Sages to clear your conscious. (Almost all other factors, i.e. "oh really, how many are really sitting and studying?" "the army needs all they can get" and many more are all politically and anti-Chareidi driven propaganda not even worth discussing. Were just touching on the initial point you brought up, which is essentially what the gemara says "Torah magna u'matzla")

    Btw, as a side point, I find it ironic how people (very often found on your blog) presenting themselves as religious observant Jews point to "the Chareidim" what ever the topic is at the time at and use them as a pinata. Do they realize that by disassociating themselves with "Chareidim" they are incidentally disassociating themselves from "HaChareidm el dvaro" (Isaiah 66:5). Also interesting, in that particular verse the prophet warns of our own brethren (!) who try to disconnect us from God. Yup, in contrast, that would be the non-HaChareidim el dvaro A.K.A. the non-Chareidim.

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  27. Ovadya, if a person is learning Torah in a situation of clear and present danger, does it help AT ALL?

    If yes, then he should help others, just as soldiers have to take risks to help others.

    If not, then why isn't he being a soldier, and helping others?

    Do they realize that by disassociating themselves with "Chareidim" they are incidentally disassociating themselves from "HaChareidm el dvaro" (Isaiah 66:5).

    Don't be ridiculous. Just because people claim to be trembling before God, it doesn't mean that they are!

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  28. This exposes the impossibility of applying metaphysical ideas to the physical world and how they can be abused to further people's selfish goals.

    When asked to share the physical burden of defending their fellow Jews the apologists immediately jump on the "learning is protection" metaphysical bandwagon, but when asked to actualize that protection in a concrete way they conveniently fall back on the illusive nature of this so-called protection. You simply can't have it both ways.

    That the Grodno Yeshiva left Ashdod makes it clear that they, at least, do not believe there is any direct connection between their learning and physical defense. On the other hand, R. Kanievsky's statement regarding the "protection of B'nei Brak" indicated that he holds there is a direct connection.

    IMO, the Grodno folks are more rational, if not hypocritical. As R. Kanieveky's "evidence" is that in the first Gulf War none of the mere 39 scuds landed there. Then again they didn't land in most places!

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  29. " On the other hand, R. Kanievsky's statement regarding the "protection of B'nei Brak" indicated that he holds there is a direct connection. "

    Yea, but this round there was almost no testing of this hypothesis. I assume that next round, when the Hizzis or Hamas start shooting more advanced rockets, there might be ample opportunity (unfortunately).

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  30. "Ovadya, if a person is learning Torah in a situation of clear and present danger, does it help AT ALL?"

    If yes, then he should help others, just as soldiers have to take risks to help others."

    Your making us go in circles here. Of course it helps! We just don't know to what extent exactly just as you can't scientifically explain how Torah study is a shield. We do know, and are likewise instructed, to remove ourselves from C & P danger and not to "help others, just as soldiers have to take risks to help others" by jumping into the line of fire with a gemara in hand! Your alternative would require EVERYONE sitting and studying Torah to go join the Marines. Again, not only Israel, but the world will cease to exist! The world needs Torah study. If you accept this premise then you must accept part #2: Don't study in a makom sakanah. It's not all that complicated. Sounds like your okay with being told "Torah study is critical" but when were told "don't study in the face of danger" you start questioning the technicalities.

    I rest my case.

    "Just because people claim to be trembling before God, it doesn't mean that they are!"

    It doesn't matter if "they" are or not, my point is that those individuals are incidentally saying "I am NOT a 'chared le'dvaro'.

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  31. Ovadya

    The problem is that people are demanding a patur. The gemara says that a talmid chacham doesn't have to pay a tax for shmira because his learning protects him. I believe that there is a question regarding the nature of the danger. No matter; for the moment I'll stick to robberies. If said talmid chacham receives his patur but then demands equal police protection, what is that saying about his patur? Its a joke, even the chacham doesn't believe it.

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  32. Take a bigger view of things. Let's assume that Torah protects, something which presumably most people on his blog agree to in theory, although they may argue on degree and balance.

    So here's a big problem--why are lomdei torah killed? Heck, why do they ever even get hurt? Die of natural causes? The obvious answer we all know is that things aren't so simple and clear cut. 100% it helps, but there's a cheshbon in the world beyond that. Other sins people do, etc. Even the tzadikkim who never sinned had to die because of the higher, hidden cheshbon which Hashem runs the world with.

    Now, we know that the malach hamves strikes in a time of anger, right? So the Torah says, "If there's danger, go somewhere safe". So they're chayav to do that. EVERYONE there who can should be chayav to do that as well, not just yeshiva bochurim.

    But that in no way means there learning doesn't help. It doesn't mean it doesn't help them, and it doesn't mean that even if c"v something DID happen to them, it doesn't help others. As a parent, I'm sure you know that your kids sometimes truly cannot fathom your reasons for doing things, but you feel they are correct anyway. That being the case, I'm not sure why there would be an accusation that "If learning helps, why are you worried"--because G-d's cheshbon is complicated and there are many factors, and G-d said a big factor is the sakanah issue.

    Also, I still contest this "location" idea. As I asked above, would you say that a son becomes less eligible to be the beneficiary of this father's zchusim if he moves away? I would think not.

    Please explain why feel the sources in chazal prove your point.

    Also, even if this is the case, it deserves some thinking about--maybe it's because the city hosted and fostered talmud torah? If so, then they wouldn't lose the protection they gained just because currently they may be elsewhere.

    Or maybe it's because they are friends/family of the lomdim, and so are more karov to the source of the gilui Hashem which is resulting in the protection and so "deserve" it more. In this case, they wouldn't lose their protection if the yeshiva leaves, just like a son wouldn't lose anything if he moved away.

    The point is that even if it is location based, that's no reason to assume that if a location supports limud hatorah and then the lomdim leave that everything is lost. In fact, something would be lost. According to the 2 possibilities presented above, because they are STILL "karov" to the lomdim/support the yeshiva (even though it temporarily relocated, they may very well NOT lose out at all).

    Here is an article from Arutz Sheva which I feel is relevant mainly because of a story in the middle about the '56 campaign where R' Tzvi Yehuda Kook says his boys should not go the front because they aren't necessary....and he says to learn and "serve the nation that way". He doesn't say "Don't fight, but sit in the back of every jeep and learn there." He doesn't even tell them to go to a more secure military base in the Sinai and to learn there! Seems like long-distance learning is something important after all...

    I just want to note that I read the post you linked to in this piece and in it you said that Israel doesn't seem any safer than it did in 1948 in spite of the increase in Torah learning. I'm not sure whether you know no history, have no idea of the actual situation now, or have trouble comparing things, or what, but that's fully false. There are big issues today as well, but it's MUCH better off then in '48 (Even with Iran in the picture, it's far better than in '48).

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  33. @Yitz:

    "We have no doubt that the efforts of the residents of Bet Shemesh, such that the sound of Torah should not cease from one yeshivah, is the 'iron dome' of the city; it is the true protection, and the cause that our residents have not been part of the bloodshed."

    I do not agree with it. As I explained above, it is a gross oversimplification. I do believe it could be true, but don't see how they would know for sure.

    But even if I did, I don't think I have a problem with the q you asked at the end of you post:

    If Hamas decided to bombard Beith Shemesh with rockets, would the Haredim sit content with their metaphysical iron dome, or would they demand the more mundane physical one?

    Probably not, because A) Of everything I said above about Hashem's cheshbon, and B) Any sort of serious danger would probably be construed as an indication that in Hashem's cheshbon, their Torah learning, for whatever reason, was NOT enough. Doesn't mean it's not what's stopping more rockets from hitting TA or J'lem, but for whatever reason, G-d something is blocking them etting the help directly. Again, that in no way casts aspersion on the idea that for other's who may not have whatever accusation against them in heave as the victims do. the limud Hatorah can come through very powerfully.

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  34. Of course it helps! We just don't know to what extent exactly just as you can't scientifically explain how Torah study is a shield. We do know, and are likewise instructed, to remove ourselves from C & P danger

    So you are claiming that it helps, but they may not administer that help where it is needed? That sounds extraordinarily selfish. The sources that you quote are not referring to a case where the people are needed to help others.

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  35. @Menachem Lipkin

    But a significant number hit TA--not far. Perhaps that was his point? IDK...

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  36. Isn't Gemara amazing? With Gemara learning, people like Ovadya can come up with ingenious explanation as to why only non-Charedim need to risk their lives for other people, not Charedim.

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  37. This past week we were all "chareidim le'dvar Hashem"; the dvar Hashem under consideration was: "lo taamod al dam re'echa"

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  38. There is an interesting story quoted by Rabbi Frand about Rav Schach. During the Gulf War, someone made a self-satisfied comment to the effect of "See? We didn't get suffer any casualties from the Scuds because of our learning (in B'nei Brak). Rav Schach replied, "no, other cities suffered casualties because WE didn't learn hard enough!"
    He apparently felt that B'nai Brak's learning could protect beyond its immediate surroundings.
    (Rav Schach was also know to cry upon hearing of IDF casualties.)

    Agree with the philosophy or not, Rav Schach didn't think he was being selfish and took what he thought were his duties and responsibilities very seriously.

    That being said, the aforementioned cutural factors also play a role in Chareidi refusal to serve.

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  39. http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/General+News/147250/Agudah-Officials-Call-Efforts-to-Draft-Avreichim-Irresponsible.html

    Participants in a meeting of Agudas Yisrael activists in the office of Meir Porush, they discussed the state’s recent response to a petition being heard by the High Court of Justice addressing the drafting of chareidim into the IDF. The state explained that beginning in the summer of 2013, thousands of chareidim are going to be called for military service.

    The Agudah officials explain that such a policy is irresponsible and lacks a realization of the consequences of such a policy, the daily HaMevaser reports. Rav Porush reminded the khal that after the High Court of Justice ordered the expulsion of residents from homes in Beit El’s Ulpana neighborhood, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was quite vocal regarding his position, speaking of possibly legislating a law that would bypass the court’s decision. “Now that we are dealing with קודש הקדשים של עם ישראל,” the destruction of yeshivos R”L, the government permits itself to publically declare the draft of bnei yeshivos is a matter of a few months.

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  40. "Every Western country has granted deferments to theology students and clergy"

    This is not true. Italy drafted a thirtysomething year old Catholic priest in to the army during World War I. His name was Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli. Over 40 years later he would become known by another name: Pope John XXIII.

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  41. for the sake of contrast with the 'rationalist' perspective here is a mekubal's take

    http://mekubal.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/a-time-to-fight/

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  42. Rabbi Slifkin obviously it doesn't help in a natural sense but you have talked about Jewish survival defying nature. Isn't it axiomatic if we observe the Torah in Israel including learning we do metaphysically help in its survival and if vice versa in its Chas ViShalom death and our exile?

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  43. "Now, we know that the malach hamves strikes in a time of anger, right? So the Torah says, "If there's danger, go somewhere safe". So they're chayav to do that. EVERYONE there who can should be chayav to do that as well, not just yeshiva bochurim. "

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. You skipped a step. Your comment is in reference to people who do not have a duty to confront the danger (unlike, say, a soldier). Well and good that they should run away to a safe place.
    But Rabbi Slifkin's post is about exemptions from the army. Even if we grant as absolutely true your theological viewpoints about Torah learning "helping" in some amorphous way through unknown divine heshbonoth, you haven't given any indication of why an entire segment of society should be exempt from army service.

    And on what basis can any individual person born into that segment of society, by mere virtue of his birth, be released from any and all duty to confront our country and people's national enemies?

    The apologists ignore these key questions. The people who say, 'Well I agree with the general point by calculation xyz, but I don't agree that bnei brak is protected from missiles by chachamim there' etc. ('and therefore rabbi slifkin why do you attack Torah and Chazal and Charedim')
    Ok, then you are not expressing what is usually expressed as the basis for 'charedi' army exemption and therefore you are not arguing directly with Rabbi Slifkin. Or, you are arguing with Rabbi Slifkin but doing so ineffectively and without pertinent arguments. That doesn't accomplish much more than diverting the discussion and unnecessarily castigating Rabbi Slifkin with inane accusations.

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  44. "Rav Porush reminded the khal that after the High Court of Justice ordered the expulsion of residents from homes in Beit El’s Ulpana neighborhood, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was quite vocal regarding his position, speaking of possibly legislating a law that would bypass the court’s decision. “Now that we are dealing with קודש הקדשים של עם ישראל,” the destruction of yeshivos R”L, the government permits itself to publically declare the draft of bnei yeshivos is a matter of a few months."

    Why must they constantly antagonize the national religious and/or settlers? And do they not know how that affair actually turned out?
    Wow, big deal, Netanyahu talked like a tough-guy about Ulpana! That's all he knows how to do is talk like a tough-guy. But guess what: he went along with the Court, and the Jews were expelled. So is Aguda asking for the same thing on their end? If the settlers get phony tough talk , then we ought to get it too? He wants bibi to say he is ready to legislate against the court's decision but then in the end do nothing and then draft the charedim, as was done to the Uplana residents? Sometimes the aguda makes mindbogglingly stupid statements.

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  45. @V:

    The post was not focusing on the exemptions as much as that on those grounds on which they are exempted are the very same grounds which obligate them to move yeshivos to dangerous areas.

    You can focus on the exemptions issue, but that is an altogether different topic/angle, as you pointed out. It is not what I was talking about, but it also wasn't what Natan was talking about.

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  46. Also @V:

    It's not true that the exemptions go by birth at all. You can be born chareidi but join the army (become secular, become Mizrachi, or go to a chareidi unit). I am sure you know people who went different ways than the way they were born.

    Similarly, nothing stops a mizrachi-nik from taking an exemption, except that he chooses to be in the group that doesn't. That's fine. But it's not like he has no choice. (There are some Mizrachi people I know who do this. From what I've seen though, this is exceedingly rare.)

    Heck, someone can be born not jewish and convert and join any stream he wants!

    It's not a birth-decision at all.

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  47. > nothing stops a mizrachi-nik from taking an exemption

    Yes, and it won't affect his sisters' shidduch opportunities.

    Not true for Chareidim.

    There needs to be a law that makes sense. We're really not that far apart from each other, once we drop the rhetoric. "Destroying yeshivas" and "equal service", are both straw men.

    I personally believe that the key will be identifying the boys whose level of learning qualifies them as being "a special unit of Torah learning". Then everyone else would have to take at least some time off, to serve at least in some capacity, in suitably designed frameworks. Can be done, but will take time

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  48. Isn't it axiomatic if we observe the Torah in Israel including learning we do metaphysically help in its survival

    I would imagine that it would depend on whether the particular study of Torah was legitimate. If it's a way of escaping one's obligations to the klal, perhaps it does not help.

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  49. The Charedi world justifies the draft exemption for yeshiva students based on the following:

    1. Torah learning protects everyone
    2. The boys are engaged in מלחמתה של תורה
    3. Talmidie Chachamim don't need protection

    Based on these it would seem that the Yeshivas should stay where they are. If the boys who are learning are engaged in war just like the soldiers why should they abandon their posts? In addition if Torah learning protects, let them stay where they are and be protected by their Torah. Their move undermines the claim for draft exemptions and looks very bad.

    See Yeshivas are moving north out of danger, what about the protection of Torah learning?
    Should yeshiva students move away from the South to avoid the missiles?
    <a href="

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  50. Ovadya wrote:
    our alternative would require EVERYONE sitting and studying Torah to go join the Marines. Again, not only Israel, but the world will cease to exist! The world needs Torah study.

    No one here disagrees that the world needs Torah study. However this does not mean that there should be a general exemption FOR EVERYONE. The biggest canard that the Charedi world keeps repeating is that drafting yeshiva students will destroy the torah world. That is simply untrue. If Charedim did something like Hesder (where they learn in Yeshiva for a year and half to 3 years before the army and then serve in separate units for a shorter time) the Yeshivas would have plenty of boys learning along with the boys actually serving in the army. Please explain to me how boys at the age of 20 serving 18 months in the army will cause Torah study to cease to exist?

    Please see Are they really out to destroy the Torah world? Will there really be no Yeshiva world if Yeshiva boys are drafted? for a sane Charedi perspective on things.

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  51. This discussion is surreal.

    Using various anecdotal ideas that appear in Chazal, even if they're sometimes paskened L'Halacha in a way that's obviously not meant to be applied liberally to large portions of the population, to let someone else do the dying for you, is absurd.

    If 2 people are stuck in a foxhole and trying to hold off the enemy until the cavalry arrives, would anyone consider having one of them dig down deeper into the hole where he can learn, while the other exposes himself to incoming fire, trying to hold off the attackers?

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  52. To take things in a completely different direction:
    From what I understand of the chareidi street (as opposed to the rabbis issuing edicts and bans - vehameivin yavin), the main concern about the army is the belief (completely unjustified, in my opinion) that the boys cannot retain their level of observance while in service.

    Add to this the significant societal pressure from the yeshiva system, shidduchim, and yenem who doesn't send to the army because it's not done, and you end up with an entire sector of society who doesn't serve.

    My personal hope: the nachal chareidi and shachar options will become more viable and accepted in chareidi society, as it modernizes. [Had I been an Israeli citizen at the time, I would have probably gone out for one of those options.]

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  53. I saw an interesting piece in one of the the weekly sheets that are distributed. They had the following question. There was a wave of burglaries in a particular Charedi neighborhood so the residents decided to hire a private security company. However, then the question of how to apportion the costs came up. Since the Gemara says that תלמידי חכמים אינם צריכים שמירה and the majority of the people in the neighborhood sit and learn in kollel (and presumably have the status of Talmidei Chachamim) who should pay? R' Elyashiv answered that the principle of תלמידי חכמים אינם צריכים שמירה only applies in a normal situation, before there is a rash of burglaries. However, now that there already was a rash of burglaries it would be considered a נס for the talmid chacham not to be harmed. Therefore the principle of תלמידי חכמים אינם צריכים שמירה does not apply and everyone has to pay equally for the security company.

    When the issue of drafting yeshiva students for the army came up, this principle of תלמידי חכמים אינם צריכים שמירה was used as one of the reasons for the exemption. It would seem from the above that R' Elyashiv would disagree as it is as at least as much a נס to not be harmed in war/terrorist acts in Israel as not being burglarized where there is a rash of burglaries.

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  54. From what I understand of the chareidi street (as opposed to the rabbis issuing edicts and bans - vehameivin yavin), the main concern about the army is the belief (completely unjustified, in my opinion) that the boys cannot retain their level of observance while in service.

    Yes, this is exactly it. This also explains why they heap on so much internal pressure via institutional admission policies and of course the shidduch standards.

    Unfortunately, no one can be transparent about it. Rather, they need to present the official policy in altruistic packaging.

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  55. ' the main concern about the army is the belief (completely unjustified, in my opinion) that the boys cannot retain their level of observance while in service'.

    I think that it's justified. Army is not a place for shtick, chumras and 'minhogim'. Charedim will have to adjust to a reasonable level of observance. There is nothing wrong with it. The same is true when going out to work.

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  56. For the record, the army does accommodate reasonable "minhogim" - like not eating meat during the 9 days for Ashkenazim. They made sure my son and his "bnei yeshiva" hesder buddies had plenty of pareve schnitzel.

    So much for the "not fully Jewish army but a bastion of Hellenists" from the first comment above.

    What they would do with people who only eat shechita X but not Y, that I don't know.

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  57. In the spirit of rationalism, I shall speak.
    What fuels the Chareidi passion? Their sense of self worth? Their motive for being and doing? גופה של חרדים מאי היא?
    Although there are many tempting answers, the real answer is Da'as Torah. It is their Raison d'être, their Sine qua non, the determent of whether something is Kosher or Treyf, Muttr or Assur, Naval-Birshus-Hatorah Asuur or Lo-Sasur-Mimachem Assur. The rabbis say Jump, and they say.... HOW HIGH?
    Let's analyze further. מכדי. Do the leaders like this sort of treatment? Revel in this respect? The obvious answer is, not only do they, but it has become THEIR OPIUM! When do they kick and scream? When their leadership is threatened!
    Therefore,, by admitting that ones Daas Torah willl become his army general, the Knesset, and the ministry of defense, they are a traitor! A defector! They are promised all types of metaphysical Tzaros that a mortal can never promise, all in the name of Daas Torah.
    Blog on!

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  58. Maybe you Are over looking something.It could be that they do not believe that learning really does protect in any realistic way. However, the question is priorities. Theirs may be very different than yours. Perhaps maintaining their lifestyle is the most important objective for them. Going to the army and maintaining a certain level of religiosity could be impossible. They are unwilling to sacrifice their spiritual growth.

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  59. Of course. That's why I wrote "alleged" reason.

    (But, in any case, I don't think that that legitimizes shirking one's obligations.)

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  60. Natan, how do you live in Israel? I mean, it's sakanos n'fashos to live there isn't it?

    Either it's a sakanah, so you have to leave, or you have to agree that there's no chiyuv as a result of the 'hishtadlus to "protect life"' because the hishtadlus is already being done!

    Either we've been yotzei the hishtadlus already, or we haven't. Since even the mizrachi feel that we have (or else they couldn't leave the army!), even they should agree that there's no chiyuv hishtadlus to go.

    The whole thing is purely cultural--everyone knows they don't really need more people right now. No one "involved" even talks in those terms anymore!

    I quote from Arutz Sheva (I brought the link above, too):

    "Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda was a man of truth, and Yeshivat Merkaz Harav was a yeshiva whose students learned diligently as long as their service was deferred. The yeshiva was characterized by a great amount of esteem for its alumni serving in the IDF, but also by a no less profound respect for those serving behind the bookstands and volumes of Talmud.


    When, according to this approach, does a soldier close the Talmud and leave the bookstand? When there are insufficient soldiers to do the job. Then everyone goes. What about equality in sharing the burden? All concerned share equally in the burden. And what about exposure to lethal danger? Most people in the army are not in combat units, and are in no greater danger than yeshiva students."

    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/11895#.ULb25GhTuxI

    NYT:

    "At issue is not so much the pragmatic needs of the military, where integrating large numbers of Haredim promises to be more hassle than help...."

    "...Over all, just over half of Israelis now do military duty, a far cry from the generally accepted notion that there is a universal draft."

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/06/world/middleeast/national-identity-at-heart-of-debate-on-israeli-military-service.html

    and A7 again:http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/11879#.ULb4_GhTuxI

    "For all practical purposes, the compulsory induction law applies to only 59% of Israel's young men.

    According to the Shefer Commission report, there are ten different types of arrangements with the army that shorten the soldiers' term of service. So of the 59% who enter the army, most do not serve the full 36 months of compulsory service.

    In other words, in total contrast to the ethos of the "People's Army", less than one third of the men in every induction cycle truly bear the full burden of army service. This is without taking into account the fact that only a minority of those men are actual combat soldiers.

    The gap between the myth of the People's Army and reality is even more pronounced in the reserves. In the year 2000, approximately 32,000 soldiers served the full period of reserve duty (26 days). This is only 4%(!) of all the men who could theoretically be serving in the army.

    It is important to note that the IDF's elite units (Golani infantry, air force and navy) boast an over-abundance of volunteers to their ranks. In other words, our youth is highly motivated to serve in combat units.

    The Compulsory Induction Law requires the IDF to draft everyone; even those it does not need and does not want.
    The result is problematic in many ways:

    Idleness: Too many soldiers in the army have nothing to do. This is a well-known fact and can be observed on most army bases.
    Economy: Too many people out of the work force, burdening the economy.
    Security: Naturally, the IDF relies on cheap labor instead of professionalism and technology. This damages our security situation. The disparity between the Air Force, which is essentially a professional volunteer force – and the rest of the army clearly highlights this problem."

    He has another 2 reasons as well, but I cut the quote short. they are Liberty and societal friction.

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  61. Economy: Too many people out of the work force, burdening the economy.

    Did you slip a joke in there to see if anyone was paying attention?

    Anyway, your basic proposition is that it is not fair to burden ANY Haredim with army duty until 100% of the remainder of the population is so burdened.

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  62. @ Yitz:

    Not my insertion--take it up with him! I can think of suggestions as to what he means but I haven't really researched it enough to tell you for sure.

    But I was pleased to see someone was paying attention!

    I wouldn't say that that is my presumption. Even if it is fair to have this double-standard, I would still point out that thie security argument is faulty. Since it's faulty, though, it can't be used to further an argument for the double standard!

    It's misleading that people make it sound like a security issue when it doesn't really seem to be. The double-standard happens to be that one of things which demonstrate this is the double standard here, but it is not my premise.

    I think the army-argument can be argued on other grounds. I think it is legitimate when people say it stops the Chareidim from developing a less chareidi hashkafa on life. Of course, I might disagree as to whether it's a bad thing...but at least (I feel) it's a true position!

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  63. proposition 1 - "The army is short of personnel and the Haredi population is our only source of candidates, therefore we must draft yeshiva students."

    proposition 2 - "The army is critical to our security and it needs young men to do gritty and dangerous work in order to function. It is not fair for the Haredi sector to shirk its fair share of this existential burden."

    jk is arguing against #1 and ignoring #2.

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  64. I have to disagree with your criticism of "B'Mishpacha" magazine for advocating a hard-line on the Gaza war because the Left welcomes all signs of defeatism and post-Zionism and they would trumpet Haredim who adopt such positions. Although I opposed a ground invasion just as you did, the more 'hard-line' position was a legitimate one and I am glad that a Haredi organ like "B'Mishpacha" still takes a sober view of security matters instead of the defeatism that has infected so much of the Left.

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  65. @Yitz:

    I don't understand...doesn't proposition 2 include proposition 1?

    "The army is critical to our security and it needs young men to do gritty and dangerous work in order to function. It is not fair for the Haredi sector to shirk its fair share of this existential burden."

    That is another way of saying that the Army needs people isn't it?

    Granted, the second prop couches it all in less desperate terms, but I don't see how one can say the second prop without assuming the first as well...

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  66. Regarding your comment that you and your sons are worried about service in the IDF, perhaps the experience of someone I know will be instructive.....a friends's son is in the 12th grade of a Benei Akiva Yeshiva Tichonit (High School). This boy was also worried about going to the army. His father, as an oleh hadash, did not serve so he couldn't tell his son about his experiences, as is the case with most Israeli boys. However, in recent years he developed two new brothers-in-law who did serve and they told him about it. The kids in his Yeshiva also talk about it as do the Rabbanim who teach there. Thus, as he got more information about it, his fears dissapated and he is now looking forward to his service. In the 12th grade, they take the kids up to the Golan Heights were the IDF shows them a demonstration of various arms of the army such as the artillery, anti-aircraft and tanks. They let the kids handle various weapons and the boy I know came home very excited after this. I have seen other yeshiva boys go into the army as part of hesder and from what I see, most LOVE the change of pace from sitting in the Beit Midrash all day to getting out in the field and playing with interesting "toys". They also respond to the challenge of becoming "real MEN" and proving themselves. At one time, in the wider culture, this was part of growing up, showing the world you were someone people could rely upon in a difficult, but in today's post-modernist, feminist-eroded world, masculine virtues are deprecated. In an odd sense we can thank Israel's security problems for this by making Israeli society dependent on these old values, which makes us a much healthier society than the US or Europe are today.

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  67. Since the Gemara says that תלמידי חכמים אינם צריכים שמירה and the majority of the people in the neighborhood sit and learn in kollel (and presumably have the status of Talmidei Chachamim) who should pay?" - Bluke comment, above

    Rabi Slifkin, I would like to see a post addressing this misconception, that Jewish professionals (rabbis, rebbis, avreichim) have the status of "talmid chacham" while ballei battim do not. Of course, up until relatively recently, there was no real difference between anyone insofar as earning a living. And everyone knows innumerable classmates and ballei battim who are more intelligent and (somewhat less common, but still often) more learned than peers who went into chinuch and rabbonus. can you address?

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  68. Rabbi Slifkin, I would interested on your thoughts regarding this quote from Nedarim 32a:

    Rabbi Abahu said in the name of Rabbi Elazar: Why was Abraham our patriarch punished and his children subjugated in Egypt for 210 years? Because he drafted Torah scholars to go to war.

    Thank you!

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  69. Yakov Dovid Shulman - I dont know what Rabbi Slifkin would say, but I can tell you what many others would. Amond many other responses:

    1) Charedim sitting around in yeshivas are not Torah Scholars.

    2) There are thousands of maimeri chazal on any given subject, including maimaeri chazal that speak about the ills of supporting yourself on the public dole.

    3) There are psukim - a little better than chazal, would say - that talk about the mitzvah of living in eretz yisrael, which carries with it certain responsibilities, like going to battle.

    4) Why were the Jews of the Midbar punished? Because they were afraid to fight for Eretz Yisrael.

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  70. Rav Nathan,

    As usual your logic is sound, and your grasp of the facts is solid. But let's not kid ourselves. You know the real reasons. I know the real reasons. Even the Charedi leaders know the real reasons.

    1) Many, possibly most do not support the State which supports them.

    2) Work is for Reform, seculars and other goyim, especially dangerous work.

    3) Most important: They know Charedism cannot survive contact with differences of opinion, contact with others or unapproved information. It relies on "epistemic closure", ignorance and mistrust of anything outside the closed information ecosystem. As the WWI song goes "How Ya Gonna Keep Them Down on the Farm After They've Seen Paree?"

    Sorry to be so blunt, but that's the simple truth.

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  71. See the Maharal on that statement in nedarim 32a, you may be surprised. If I remember right, some rishonim have some interesting takes on that statement too! But aside from all that, I think it's pretty clear that's a hashkafic statement and the gemara does not conclude that discussion. Two other completely different reasons are also given to explain why Abraham was punished. It implies disagreement. And no certain conclusion. A type of speculation.

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