Thursday, June 27, 2013

Parameters, Please!

There are several aggadic statements about the protective merit/value of Torah. (It should be noted, however, that it appears to have been a dispute amongst the Sages as to whether Torah provides protection; see Rabbi Dr. Yaakov Elman, "Righteousness as Its Own Reward: An Inquiry into the Theologies of the Stam," Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, Vol. 57, 1990 - 1991, pp. 35-67). At any rate, the charedi community wants to turn this into a halachic exemption from serving in the army and contributing to the economy. Furthermore, they expect all other Jews - even non-religious Jews - to accept this. They even present this argument to non-Jews:
Porush began by explaining the hareidi-religious view of Torah study. Israel survives in the hostile Middle East not due to the strength of its army, but due to the merit of Torah study, he told (French Ambassador to Israel) Bidot.

Well, as a religious Jew who will be sending his sons to the army, and who is (as a taxpaying citizen) sharing the financial burden of those in kollel, I think that we have a right to know the parameters of this protection. If you're claiming that it is a concrete benefit, which exempts you from concrete action while others serve instead and fund those in kollel, as concrete halachah, then I think that you should provide some concrete specifics.

1. Is this protection dependent upon time?

Does the protective effect of Torah even apply when the Torah student is not studying? Does it apply during the night? During vacation?

If yes - then why did many Gedolim urge their students to study during their vacation when various wars were taking place, or when there were even worse threats, such as the draft?
If not - then shouldn't the charedi community be learning in shifts, so that protection is kept steady around the clock, throughout the year?

2. Does this protection apply under all circumstances?

Bava Kama 60a-b indicates that a time of community-wide misfortune, Torah does not protect, and material steps are advised. Responsa Radvaz 2:752 greatly restricts the extent of the Gemara's ruling about Torah scholars being exempt from contributing towards security, including stating that it does not apply in cases where the rabbis consider themselves in need of protection. Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin wrote that "If you understand that the scholars don't need protection in relatively peaceful times and are exempt from building the protective walls, what consequence has this when compared to a life-and-death struggle, a war which is a mitzvah and in which all are obligated?" So on what basis is the charedi community so certain that their Torah study protects from the clear and present dangers that exist today, such as to exempt them from serving the army?

3. What type of things does Torah protect from?

Based on the Gemara in Berachos 5a, the protection appears to be from physical illness. Other sources that speak about the protective value of Torah make no mention of specifically military threats, and indicate that it provides protection equally from illness, famine, etc. If that is the case, does that mean that the charedi community should receive less government assistance for medical services and other forms of aid? Otherwise, aren't they being hypocritical?

4. Is the protective effect more potent in the area where the Torah study takes place?

Presumably it is, because many stories about its alleged protective effect relate to the particular place where the Torah scholar/ tzaddik lived. But if so, why do the charedi yeshivos flee to safer places when war breaks out, leaving the residents of the city behind? If their Torah is providing any degree of protection, and they are doing their "military duty" in this way, then they should stay in, and even travel to, the cities that are under attack. Soldiers don't go where it is safe - they go where their services are needed, even at personal risk!


5. Is the intent of the person studying Torah relevant?

It's generally accepted that reciting Tehillim for the sick is only, or most, effective if the sick person's name is mentioned and/or "had in mind." Presumably, Torah study is likewise only, or more, effective if explicitly done with the goal of protecting those at risk. If so, then since soldiers are the ones most at risk, why don't charedim, when beginning their study sessions or dedicating their yeshivos, ever specify that their learning is to protect the soldiers? (The reason is presumably that charedim don't want to identify in any way, shape or form with the IDF. But if they won't dedicate their learning to protect the soldiers, why should they be able to claim exemption on the grounds that they are learning to protect the soldiers?)

The IDF can give precise answers as to the parameters of the effectiveness of their forces. If charedim are claiming that their Torah study is of equal or greater effectiveness, they have an obligation to do the same.

(Of course, the charedi community would never answer these questions, because they cannot do so without tripping themselves up. And the true answer to all this is that charedim do not really believe that their Torah protects. It's just an excuse, to cover their real reasons for not serving in the army: that it interferes with the way that they want to conduct their lives and society, and they feel no obligation to the wider Jewish community in this regard.)

60 comments:

  1. As an important secondary character in a fantasy fiction trilogy I am quite qualified to speak on the subject.
    Here's why fantasy writing can be so much fun: you get to make up the rules as you go along.
    Now, doesn't that sound familiar considering how many of the PR people we're dealing with do seem to live in a fantasy world?

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  2. I would add:

    6. Does it matter who is doing the studying?

    Does it make a difference in terms of protection whether it is a talmid chacham or a novice? If yes, then administer tests to determine who is fit to serve in this capacity. If no, then this opportunity should be offered to secular Jews just as it is to charedi Jews. Let charedim give up their spaces in the Beis Midrash while they go off to the army, and let people who've never learned Torah before have a chance. Now THAT would be a great thing!

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  3. 2 Questions:
    1 You always said those that study a subject matter should be relied upon over those that have just skimmed through the topic.
    Do you as a zoologist profess to know better than the ziknei hador who have studied Torah for decades what protection Torah offers?
    2 have you enlisted in the army reserves?

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  4. 1. That's why I was asking questions, not giving answers.

    2. No. But I plan to send my sons.

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  5. Atheodox-
    This is one of the things that drive me absolutely batty about the whole thing - why is Charedi study the only study that matters? Also, what's on the table is not mass, one-time draft of ALL Charedi 'learners', so why the fuss regarding this "Torah-is-protection" issue?

    I believe that deep down, these issues of draft, funding, education, etc are not really religious in nature. They're political, economic, and, most importantly, sociological issues dressed up in thick religious clothing.

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  6. Benjamin-
    R' Slifkin's questions are very good ones, couched in what one could call 'talmudic analysis'. I have yet to see any good answers to them at all, from anyone.

    Let's stop hiding behind these 'and who are YOU to question the gedolim?' ad hominems, OK? They don't make for compelling debate.

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  7. Dear Natan
    Why have you not enlisted in the reserves?
    I think it would be appropiate for your readers to know the truthful answer, so as not to perhaps think of you as be hypocritical
    Thanks

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  8. How about if we make a deal. You answer the questions in my post, under your real name, and I'll tell you why I didn't go the army.

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  9. Also, I can't imagine any potential reason that I might have for not going to the army that would make this post hypocritical.

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  10. Shouldnt the experience of the Shoah - when all the learning of the great pre-war Yeshivot provided exactly zero protection -serve as proof that Midrashic statements can't be interepeted in such a literal way?

    It should be common sense, not requiring proof. But if someone needs proof - shouldn't the Shoah end this line of thinking forever?

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  11. Rabbi Slifkin, I do so enjoy your blog least of all because you succeed In expressing yourself so clearly particularly when dealing with loaded issues that involve vast swathes of the Haredi community. My only regret is that what you have to say is slightly too advanced for people such as Meir Porush etc who are more than likely spending their time on the Internet catching up with the latest news about Justin Bieber and friends. Oh, just a quick question to Benjamin Bunny - protector of the virtue of ziknei hador: have you, Benjamin, served either in the regular army or the reserves? In order to quicken things, I have done both in active combat units. Oh and I've also been known to open a Sefer or two. Does that give me the right to malign Haredim in such a vicious and patronising way as they do to everyone non-Haredi? Surely with Tisha b'av on the horizon we should remind ourselves of our responsibility to accept that our ultimate destiny is to live with each other,so we might as well resolve doing this with slightly more respect than we appear to be offering each other at the moment (i include myself) .. perhaps??

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  12. Ah, but Ezra there are answers for any perceived deficiencies in the ideological positions.
    Why did the Holocaust happen? Zionism! Secularism! Lack of Torah in America!
    Why then did the Holocaust happen to those Jews who were anti-Zionist, quite religious and steeped in Torah in Europe?
    Because the death of the righteous is precious in the eyes of God (Tehillim).

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  13. I am inspired to add to your list of questions.

    Why don't the torah learners clock in and start each session with a kavanah text stating what they are hoping to protect? If they want believers in the medinah to feel protected they will have to invoke the medinah in some way. No one is asking them to say they believe in aschaltah digeulah, just the state as a practical vessel. If (as we know is the case) they will, at most, say they want to protect all the inhabitants of the area, let them say that. However, that won't wash because most chilonim and datei leumim see the protection of the state and the people as inseparable.

    Haredim have fooled themselves for years into believing that their arguments carry weight outside their own camp. They have gotten things for years by brute political power and pork barrel trading in a dysfunctional Israeli political system. They have lost a sense of reality because they have been allowed to misbehave for so long. Lapid and Bennet came out of nowhere to hold a 1/4 of the Knesset because they are offering to end the corrupt status quo. Their rise to power is a clear voter message; chareidim we don't buy your position and we will go to the wire to dismantle your unjustified special privileges.

    Rabbi Slifkin you have done an excellent job of refuting their polemics from within their own sources. But as you know we have entered an era where they routinely distort the very sources they promise to uphold when it gets in the way of their political interests. I suppose your arguments will be used by a tiny minority who are clear thinkers and are willing to act on principal and not be cowed by considerations of reputation, social connections, shidduchim, parnassah, school admissions or threats of other sorts.

    Unfortunately, unfortunately, it is not very common for individual chareidim to simultaneously possess brains, spines and integrity.

    Still I applaud you for offering material to those in that world inclined to engage in honest introspection and evaluation.

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  14. "Natan Slifkin said...

    2. No. But I plan to send my sons."

    What do you mean by saying you will "send your sons?" If they will be 18 won't they send themselves if they so wish? Do parents have to sign anything in Israel?

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  15. "If not - then shouldn't the charedi community be learning in shifts, so that protection is kept steady around the clock, throughout the year?"

    I believe there are such Kollels in Eretz Yisroel that do this. They have shifts so that there's never a second when someone is not learning. Plus the time zone thing takes care of this as well. I know of a Chatzos Kollel in Beitar. They get started when everyone else's heads are hitting the pillows.

    "So on what basis is the charedi community so certain that their Torah study protects from the clear and present dangers that exist today, such as to exempt them from serving the army?"

    The charedim are making a conscious effort to mare sure there's more Torah learning in the world. Is the system perfect? Of course not. But, what system is. "Im Bechukosai Teileichu" = "Amaeilus B'Torah". Both "sides" are doing their part for K'lal Yisroel.

    "make no mention of specifically military threats"

    I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure the Torah says outright that 10 will chase 1,000 or something like that...and visa versa that if we are not "Amel B'Torah" then we'll be scared off by a rustling leaf...Please correct me if I am remembering this incorrectly.

    "Is the protective effect more potent in the area where the Torah study takes place?"

    Not sure...Good question.

    "Is the intent of the person studying Torah relevant?"

    It's probably more potent. But, not sure. Good question.

    "Of course, the charedi community would never answer these questions, because they cannot do so without tripping themselves up."

    Who says they wouldn't answer these questions? You're making an assumption.

    "And the true answer to all this is that charedim do not really believe that their Torah protects. It's just an excuse, to cover their real reasons for not serving in the army: that it interferes with the way that they want to conduct their lives and society, and they feel no obligation to the wider Jewish community in this regard."

    That's just your opinion. My opinion is that many chareidim truly feel an "achrayus" for K'lal Yisroel to learn Torah B'ameilus. Is that really so far fetched that they would truly believe this in their heart of hearts? Maybe you don't believe that what they believe is true. But, they certainly do believe it and do not have ulterior motives. I see this with my own eyes on a daily basis.

    Re: comment by Atheodox Jew

    "Let charedim give up their spaces in the Beis Midrash while they go off to the army, and let people who've never learned Torah before have a chance. Now THAT would be a great thing!"

    People who never learned before would be welcomed with open arms to come learn in the Beis Midrash. Come one come all. Halevai that the Batei Midrashos should be overflowing with Lomdei Torah.

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  16. What do you mean by saying you will "send your sons?" If they will be 18 won't they send themselves if they so wish? Do parents have to sign anything in Israel?

    In Israel, the choice that you make regarding where to send your son for first grade largely determines whether or not he will serve in the army.

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  17. I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure the Torah says outright that 10 will chase 1,000 or something like that...and visa versa that if we are not "Amel B'Torah" then we'll be scared off by a rustling leaf...

    The point is that it ALSO talks about protecting from illness. But the charedi community doesn't want to be held to that.

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  18. But, they certainly do believe it and do not have ulterior motives. I see this with my own eyes on a daily basis.

    Did the charedim who fled Ashdod and Netivot believe it?

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  19. quote:
    If yes - then why did many Gedolim urge their students to study during their vacation when various wars were taking place, or when there were even worse threats, such as the draft?

    I think you mean, "then why *didn't*...?"

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  20. "Did the charedim who fled Ashdod and Netivot believe it?"


    Yes. Well I can't read their minds, so I don't know for sure. But, as you've said in the past...it's not a force field.

    I don't think anyone would agree that if a rocket is about to rain down on your head then you should just whip out a Gemara and start learning. Instead in the heat of the moment you should run away or find a way to stop it. However, as I understand it as Ameilus B'Torah increases so too does the peace from our enemies increase. It's not a single isolated incident that you can point to. It's a combined effort that would cause those rockets to not be there in the first place. Clearly we're not zocheh at this point. But, it's not just Limud HaTorah. Same thing goes for Sinas Chinam vs. Ahavs Chinam. The more that Klal Yisroel strengthens its all around Avodas Hashem the more we will experience peace and bring the Geula B'karov.

    Agav I just listened to a shiur from Rav Weinberger where he said (I'm summarizing) "imagine if for one year all sides would just stop the bickering and fighting and just love one another Jew to Jew...imagine how different we would all be after that year." We need to bring the peace.

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  21. So you're saying that it's not localized. But most of the sources brought to support this notion say that it is localized.

    You're also saying that it's not particularly effective, if there are bullets and missiles flying. But the army IS effective in those circumstances. So learning Torah is no substitute!

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  22. As I said earlier I don't know anything about the localized part. I can't comment on that at this point in time.

    Learning Torah and general Avodas Hashem is the ikar. It helps to prevent evil from befalling us in the first place and helps us be victorious (in these days of nissim nistarim b'derech hateva) in other situations.

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  23. You're just uttering platitudes. If you want to claim that it is a legitimate substitute for serving in the army, then you have to explain l'maaseh how it helps. That was exactly the point of this post! If a person learning Torah in Sderot is doing as much to help the city as a soldier in Sderot, then how is it okay for him to leave? And if it helps protect from illness, then why do charedi towns need the same hospitals as everyone else?

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  24. I think the Torah protects all tax payers who pay for the yeshivos and kollelim. You are safe in Eilat because you are paying for Torah in Bnei Braq. I have no proof but it makes sense to me. Paying for kaddish to be said or for mishnayos to be learned certainly helps the neshomo of the one who pays, it's a great investment.

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  25. Anyone who follows the news in the Middle East knows that the situation for Israel has become much worse, and the peace from our neighbors has not increased; it is quite the contrary.

    Egypt is now governed by the Islamic Brotherhood, of which Hamas is essentially a slightly different incarnation. Barry Rubin has detailed their alliance and funding by Nazi-Germany in the 1930's and 40's.

    Syria is in a protracted civil war which has no good outcome for Israel, as the rebels are overwhelmingly radical Islamists.

    Formerly friendly Turkey has and continues to be transformed by Erdogan and his party into an Islamist state, which backs Hamas, and does not hide its hatred and animus towards Israel's very existence.

    The peace with Jordan is a sham as there is essentially no normalization of trade or any kind of relationship.

    Negotiations with the Fakestinians is nonexistent. (Perhaps that's the only good news in disguise.)

    And of course, Iran is still working as fast as they can to develop nuclear weapons and the long range missiles to deliver them. (The recent election there has changed nothing.)

    I sincerely pray that G-d is watching and protecting Israel, but as far as we can tell all the Kollel study has done absolutely nothing to increase the peace. The deterrent power of the IDF is what protects Israel. I sincerely pray that G-d acts to magnify and strengthen the actions of the IDF to protect Israel and the Jewish People.

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  26. i think the most democratic way to make this work is have every person serving that personally is interested in this torah protection should commit that he will serve an additional three months and petorim will be given according to how many months of protection have been donated !!!

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  27. You're just uttering platitudes.

    Let's not lose sight of the fact that "platitudes" are essentially all the "Torah is protection" idea was ever meant to be - that is, a kind of mantra designed to inspire a person in their learning, instill that learning with a sense of importance and the person with a feeling of courage, hope and idealism, as in: "These with chariot, and these with horses, but we with the Shem Hashem!"

    Did David HaMelech go out to the battlefield without weapons or armor, simply yelling out the Shem Hashem? Of course not - in fact he was known for getting his hands exceedingly dirty! And yet we speak about him as penning the above pasuk. Do we say that's hypocritical? No!

    Same thing here. The idea is that we're supposed to accept the idea that "Torah is protection" (for the psychological purposes stated above) but then NOT rely on Torah for protection.

    The absurdity of constructing "parameters" for the protection of Torah simply mirrors the absurdity of people taking what should be an inspiring mantra and turning it into a "practical strategy" which ever so conveniently happens to exempt them from the army. To me, that's what this post is meant to expose.

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  28. I would like to know what the sources/idea's are that support the idea of being in an army/ joining a Jewish army/ joining the IDF etc.
    I'm not sure if there has been a post on this but it seems important to contrast the sources brought on both "sides" in order to form a proper opinion.

    "The absurdity of constructing "parameters" for the protection of Torah simply mirrors the absurdity of people taking what should be an inspiring mantra and turning it into a "practical strategy" which ever so conveniently happens to exempt them from the army. To me, that's what this post is meant to expose."
    Although the intent of the author might have been to mock/expose the way that the other 'side' utilizes their sources, it seems to me that looking to the Torah to create the parameters for any and every situation is the correct way to determine what should be done. I don't see what's absurd about that??

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  29. R' Slifkin-
    Just curious - do you actually read these? Thanks:

    http://slifkinchallenge.blogspot.com/2013/06/parameters-please.html

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  30. One-sentence summary: "I can't answer your questions, but other people shirk their duties also, it's challenging to our religious standards to serve, and the army could use secular people instead of us, so there!"

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  31. Thanks. I was just curious if you knew about this guy(s?). It looks like the sole purpose is to thwart your arguments at every turn...
    I'm assuming you don't bother to actively refute each post as it comes up?
    Thanks.

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  32. He's a devoted talmid of Rabbi Meiselman - see http://www.zootorah.com/controversy/ravmeiselman.html. He's been crusading against me for years, presumably because he's frustrated that I exposed his rebbe's serious character flaws.

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  33. Hello Rabbi Slifkin. For a while I have been scanning through your blog every so often and I have thurrily enjoyed it! Really, it keeps me very entertained. I have two questions for you:

    1: Are you really that bored?
    2: Why does it bother you that charedim dont serve in the army? You claim that they all have excuses that they're scared etc. But what's the excuse that you're hiding under all your wonderful "leshem shomayim" attacks on the gedolim and am yisroel?

    Please answer these questions for me. Mainly number 2...

    Thank you, Rabbi

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  34. You claim that they all have excuses that they're scared etc.

    No, I don't.

    Why does it bother you that charedim dont serve in the army?

    Why does it bother you that it bothers me?

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  35. Trekk said...
    'I would like to know what the sources/idea's are that support the idea of being in an army/ joining a Jewish army/ joining the IDF etc.'

    How about next week's parsha? When the tribes of Reuven and Gad went to Moshe asking them to settle a fertile land past the Jordan. Moshe's response? 'Shall your brothers go to war, and you will settle here?' (Bamidbar/Numbers 32:1-6)

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  36. Firstly, thats not true.. yes you do claim that! Secondly, good answer! You really answered that question! Quite on track..

    However, I WILL answer your question. Really, it doesn't bother me.. I'm a yeshiva bochur, I have ZERO intentions of going to the army. I don't believe in the whole "shivyon banetel" thing. However, being that I many friends (who i get on with very well) who are in the army and are actually practising what they believe in, (even though its not necessarily the best way to get into the next world safely) I do enjoy the casual checkup on your blog just for entertainments sake. It doesn't bother me that you are anti Torah jews - I kind of expect it.. I was just having a little fun...

    So you don't really have to answer my question - it wont achieve anything real, but it may help you out with your reputation.. but then again - you're not in it for the reputation and fame. Its completely leshem shomayim! I don't know what I was thinking....

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  37. Firstly, thats not true.. yes you do claim that!

    No, I don't. Please cite a single instance of my claiming that charedim don't go the army because they're scared of the dangers.

    Regarding my not answering your question - since, as you admit, you're not interested in a serious discussion, but just appear anonymously to take some pot shots for entertainment purposes, why do you think that you deserve a serious answer?

    I don't believe in the whole "shivyon banetel" thing.

    Care to justify that?

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  38. It looks like this post really touched a nerve with our charedi brethren!

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  39. I don't deserve a serious answer at all - I agree.. I merely wanted to confirm what the reasons for your blog were.. I see I was correct... Also, its amazing the extent that some people go to in order to get out of answering a question. "Im not going to answer you - you don't deserve it!!" Wow! Thats not at all excuses. New definition: Excuses are only made by other people - they are never made by me!

    Lastly, i just wanted to say this: Ein adam roeh es hanegiah shelo! So just be careful out there..

    PS:Just Observing: Do you really believe that the charedim are your brethren? I dont believe that you do...

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  40. Oh sorry: missed 2 points.
    1. http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2012/11/soldiers-draft-dodgers-and-deserters.html

    2. You know my views on shivyon banetel. Im one of the parasites living off every tax payer in the country because I have some ridiculous belief that theres a G-d in this world! I know its crazy, but what can I do - im a narrow minded follower of R Shteinmann (hes that power-hungry guy who's running around looking for followers - basically the opposite of you!)

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    Replies
    1. You lost the battle before you began. Because you and your ilk believe your way is the only and true way. And that your gedolim are our gedolim. NOPE!!!

      You asked sarcasticly before if we believe chareidim are our brethren. I think you need to turn that question in reverse. now be honest with yourself, do you beleive chareidim consider nonchareidim on the same jewish level? Now to finish, go take your damn party line and go crawl under the rock you came out from under!!!

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  41. i just wanted to say this: Ein adam roeh es hanegiah shelo!

    Indeed. Fortunately, there's a whole host of people out there who are eager to point them out for me.

    1. http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2012/11/soldiers-draft-dodgers-and-deserters.html

    Ya, that's where I specifically said the reason why charedim don't serve, and it had nothing to do with being afraid.

    Im one of the parasites living off every tax payer in the country because I have some ridiculous belief that theres a G-d in this world!

    Right, belief in God = demanding that other people do the unpleasant work instead of you, and that they pay for you to learn. Strange that Rambam didn't see it that way. I guess that he, and hesder students, don't believe in God!

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  42. The whole fight is over who will control the acculturation of the children. The main objection to the army was the use of the army as a tool of homogenizing the nation. If the Chareidim had confidence that their children would come out of army service as chareidim many more would drop their objections. Everything else is just political cover.

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  43. Fascinating.

    Mr Yitzhok, you wrote, I don't deserve a serious answer at all - I agree... Im one of the parasites living off every tax payer in the country because I have some ridiculous belief that theres a G-d in this world! I know its crazy, but what can I do...

    Steady on there, old chap, must be rainy and gloomy where you are, but this here isn't a confessional for the dark night of the soul, you know! Oh, it's sarcasm? Ha! As in dripping, drenching, oozing sarcasm? A little on the thick and cloying, if you don't mind Temujin's opinion, son. Nor the most brilliant of tactics for a fellow who is such a persistent and, er, devout follower of this site. Someone who should have learned by now, after who knows how many encounters, that acidy sarcasm will only get him pwned.

    And one can safely say, without a moment's hesitation, that all here consider you a brother. Perhaps a mean-streaked, mouthy and spoilt one, the kind who hogs everything, bullies and sticks out his tongue (deserving to miss his dessert), but a brother nevertheless. Let all instead hear your honest thoughts, even angry ones, like...like from a brother to his brothers, what?

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  44. GH 500

    BTW Torah protection is not the only rational for not serving, Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank Ztz"l writes the danger of secularization in the army overrides the obligation to serve.

    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=20825&st=&pgnum=13&hilite=

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  45. [RNS please post this instead of my previous comment. thanks]


    1. Is this protection dependent upon time?

    According to IGRM which bases exemption on "ת"ח לא בעי נטרנותא" I’d say no, otherwise in Bava Basra they’d have to pay for during sleep.


    2. Does this protection apply under all circumstances?

    “Bava Kama 60a-b indicates that a time of community-wide misfortune, Torah does not protect, and material steps are advised.”
    Maharil seems to understand otherwise http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pagefeed/hebrewbooks_org_46427_73.pdf

    “Responsa Radvaz 2:752 greatly restricts the extent of the Gemara's ruling about Torah scholars being exempt from contributing towards security, including stating that it does not apply in cases where the rabbis consider themselves in need of protection.”
    He’s referring to a CH”M monetary perspective (sharing burden) where as long as scholar benefits from protection he must compensate monetarily, whereas when contribution is Bitul Torah it may be counterproductive.

    3. What type of things does Torah protect from?

    See above Maharil link.

    4. Is the protective effect more potent in the area where the Torah study takes place?

    Probably, but where war diminishes learning, and others can also escape, than perhaps it isn't their obligation to stay, thus requiring them to leave (to enhance their learning) and protect learning better elsewhere.

    Also, there are Halachic sources that metaphysical protection such as prayer doesn't override Shabbos. Thus it is not an obligation of פקו"נ.

    However, it may thwart obligation for physical protection [see Maharsha Kid. 29b].

    5. Is the intent of the person studying Torah relevant?
    Of course not, you do not learn for reward in mind, but Tehilim is not a parallel because it is considered a form of prayer - which inherently demands intent for the results.

    Gh 500
    Zvi Herzig

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  46. @ waaaaaaah
    That would be one. Any more?

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  47. Just to reenforce alan eidensohn's point that the army has been used as a cultural tool, every army program that has been geared to Chareidim, including Netzach Yehuda, Shachar, etc., has had incredible enrollment, and as new ones are added, more Chareidim will join the army.
    When they decide not to use the army as a cultural force, and purely for defense, the objections will fade away.

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  48. @Trekk
    Nope. Sorry :/

    Bear in mind though, the fact that I don't know of any others doesn't mean that there aren't any others. Also, I think this explicit statement from the Torah is pretty powerful on its own :)

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  49. Because of its length, I'd like to submit this comment in two or three parts.

    Other than Zvi Herzig's comment, I have not seen any real attempt to deal with Rabbi Slifkin's quesions, other than to insult him, belittle him, and to raise the ever-popular strangler of discussion, "the gedolim say..."

    I do think there is an argument to be made on the other side. I do not agree with this argument, but I believe it deserves to be articulated more clearly and honestly than it usually is. If I were given the task of articulating the haredi argument in favor of being exempted from the Israeli draft, I believe I would do so in more or less the following terms:

    In giving the reasons for continuing the draft exemption for Torah scholars, we need to first define what full time Torah study really is and how we actually view the protection it provides for the Jewish people living in the Land of Israel.

    I think it is fair to say that all of us Jews - or at least all of us that continue to define ourselves as Jews and to see a positive meaning in our Jewish identity - see Judaism and the Jewish people as having a special role in the world. Whether we refer to that role in terms of tikkun olam, or a light among the nations, or whatever description we might give it, we would not have maintained our Jewish identify for so many centuries, in the face of so much persecution and adversity, if we did not consider our continued existence as Jews to be of some importance. And I think most of us, if not all, would admit that somehow, that special identity that we share is rooted in the Torah. A Sefer Torah is seen as a holy object no less in a Reform temple than in an Orthodox shul. Whether we see the Torah as the literal word of God, or as a divinely inspired semi-revelation, or even as a totally human expression of a deeper purpose to the world and a conscience that must lie beyond our actions, the fact of the Torah as the starting point and centerpiece of Jewish identity is shared beyond denominational boundaries.

    Now, I will narrow the discussion to the following question, which I will attempt to answer from a more narrow point of view. Why has God seen fit, after almost 2000 years, to restore Jewish sovereignty to the Land of Israel? And against odds that any rational person would have to declare to be completely off the boards? Can it be for any other reason than to ensure the continued survival of the Jewish people, in a world that is quickly becoming more and more homogenous, more and more inhospitable, at least culturally, to a Jewish people that has insisted upon the preservation of its singular belief system that constantly puts it out of the mainstream of the religious beliefs and practices of peoples amongst whom it has lived?

    If we can accept these premises, we can move on to the question of defining Torah study. I believe this is a subject that is very much misunderstood outside the world of yeshivos. Torah study is not simply the study of, and mastery of, written words of Gemora. It is a complete immersion in a place of Torah, the yeshiva, a place in which the student not only grapples with the words on the Gemora page, but interacts with his fellow students, and, most importantly, with the rabbaim who teach the student what those words in the Gemora mean. The rabbaim teach the meaning of these words not only by explanations, but with their every word, action, and inflection. In this, as much or more as in the words of Gemora they teach, these rabbaim represent the unbroken tradition of Torah that has guided the Jewish people throughout its history.

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  50. Since part 2 hasn't arrived yet - can I point out that most of Chazal and the Rishonim achieved greatness in Torah without 100% constant immersion for all their lives.

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  51. Check this out - http://pinnysworld.blogspot.com/2013/06/birnbaums-latest-nonsense.html

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  52. Since part 2 hasn't arrived yet - can I point out that most of Chazal and the Rishonim achieved greatness in Torah without 100% constant immersion for all their lives.

    Yes, but were they forced out of their cultural environment at age 18, and placed in military bases that were dominated by cultural mores that were foreign to the culture with which they were raised? That's really my point - that its not just about learning, but about the formation of a complete Torah personality.

    By the way, if Part II still hasn't come through, please let me know and I will re-submit. Part I is just gibberish without it!

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  53. "but were they forced out of their cultural environment at age 18, and placed in military bases that were dominated by cultural mores that were foreign to the culture with which they were raised"

    No, but that is not what is being proposed here, either!

    Part II did not come through - please re-submit.

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  54. Part II (for part I, see above)

    This brings us, finally, to the question of the army. When you take a yeshiva bocher and put him in the army, you are not just interrupting his study of Gemora, as important as that is. You are interrupting his entire development as a person steeped in Jewish tradition. You are taking him from the environment of the yeshiva, the atmosphere of which is fully flavored by the influence of the rabbaim, the other students, and the words of Torah around which the yeshiva life is centered, and placing him in the atmosphere of the modern army, an atmosphere flavored by a modern culture which often represents the antithesis of the yeshiva environment in which the bocher has lived to that point.

    I do not wish to repeat the mistake that some make when they emphasize this or that incident, such as the "kol isha" incident that occurred last year. This is not a question of what heckser is on the food, or whether a soldier may be asked to perform some inappropriate action on Shabbat. The primary question is whether a young man raised in a haredi household, and who has learned in haredi yeshivos, all set up with the goal of producing an adult Jewish male steeped in Jewish tradition, can spend three years in a modern, secular army, at the formative age of young adulthood, without forfeiting that goal of molding a true Torah personality which years of haredi upbringing and education were intended to produce.

    And why is it important to achieve that pure Torah-based personality? The answer to this question shows where the greatest misunderstanding takes place with regard to this issue of army exemptions. Because when we speak of Torah study protecting the Jewish people, we are not speaking of some metaphysical protection. We are not talking about some magic shield that is strengthened with each blatt of Gemora that is learned. No, we are talking about something much more rational and tangible. We are talking about preserving the essence of the Jewish people in the form of those Torah students who have spent their formative years in a purely Torah-based environment. These students preserve the Jewish tradition that they have received from their parents and rabbaim, a tradition that is embodied in their behavior, outlook, and culture, a tradition to which three years living in the army environment will do irreparable damage in many or most cases. Ultimately, it is that tradition that separates the Jewish people from the world, embodies the special role the Jewish people has to play in the world, and ultimately, makes the Jewish people worth preserving. And if God ever concluded, chas v'shalom, that the Jewish people were not worth preserving, could the Jewish state really hope to survive for long in the hostile world in which it exists?

    None of this, chas v'shalom, is intended to denigrate the very real service and sacrifice that the soldiers of Tzahal perform, or the very great debt that is owed to them by all Israeli Jews, including those of the haredi yeshiva world. The tzaddikim of yesteryear, people like Rav Aryeh Levin, the tzaddik of Jerusalem, acknowledged this debt. Perhaps today, the pernicious influence of politics has colored our attitudes and even corrupted our hashkafos in subtle ways that has distanced us from the hakaras ha tov that should be an intrinsic element of every real Torah Jew. Nonetheless, when we speak of "Shevet HaLevi," we should understand what that really means, in today's context. It means that self-selected group of Jews that sacrifices its own material welfare, and holds out against the very strong pressures of modern Western culture, in order to preserve the unbroken tradition that has become the repository of the yeshiva world, and that preserves what makes the Jewish people unique and worth continuing.

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  55. No, but that is not what is being proposed here, either!

    Yes and no. I think the army environment is a tough challenge for the average haredi yeshiva bocher, even with Nachal Haredi and Shachar. On the other hand, I think the refusal of the haredi leadership to even attempt to negotiate more haredi-friendly environmental parameters for service, as well as the willingness of yeshivas to register guys that are not really learning in order to keep them from the army, indicates a total lack of good faith that undermines whatever legitimate arguments they could make about the cultural impact of the army on their young men.

    And finally, what many haredi apologists fail to recognize is that the army is a challenge for a lot of people, not just haredim. Do they think there aren't dati leumi families that aren't deathly afraid of the spiritual effect of the army on their children? Of course there are, but their general lack of respect for the dati leumi community seems to blind them to this fact. Do they think there aren't secular families who fear their children will be brutalized by participation in the occupation of another people? Of course there are, but for most haredim, this type of concern seems to be beyond the pale of consideration.

    But if everyone who had such qualms taught their children to avoid the army, we wouldn't have much of an army left. Haredi apologists might like to talk about their Torah study protecting the Jewish people, but I've never seen much evidence that they would actually stake their own safety on these claims, as you point out in this post, and as I witnessed first hand living in a haredi community during the second intifada.

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  56. The description of the effect of Torah is excellent and relevant, Baruch. It is something that we, as a nation, do want to be able to protect.

    It is in line with what Naftali Bennett and R' Dov Lipman have been saying (although they don't seem to get any credit for it).

    > the army is a challenge for a lot of people, not just haredim

    This is a very important point.

    Isn't every mother worried that her son will be "broken" by basic training?

    That the necessary aspect of becoming a soldier in any army involves a certain form of dehumanization?

    And most importantly: for those whose soldiers are serving in a capacity that puts them in direct conflict with the enemy: that they'll come home in one piece, physically and mentally.

    To say that we can put our fears aside in order to defend Israel while they cannot put aside their fears of "cultural impact"?

    And even then, for those communities whose culture is so different as to not overlap at all, Satmar and the like, the proposed system suggests service within their own community. (Which will be a huge, expensive, bureaucratic nightmare with a massive potential for fraud, but at least it will make the statement that we are all somehow in it together.

    That we are indeed brothers

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  57. Dear Reb Baruch "Chareidi Defender Persona" Gitlin:

    Thank you for clarifying the chareidi fears and anxiety regarding army service for their children.

    We share your concerns and recognize, that it is those who have immersed themselves in a purely Torah-based environment that have preserved us spiritually and thereby have protected and perpetuated Judaism. As you so eloquently put it, "We are talking about preserving the essence of the Jewish people."

    We concede that it is chareidi style torah study and only chareidi style torah study that, through its unbroken chain of leadership, has kept the Jewish people as nation worth preserving in the eyes of God.

    In recognition of the good and holy needs of our people we are going to guarantee their ability to continue in their sincere and devout endeavors.

    Therefore, we propose a landmark, groundbreaking formula, that our forefathers never had the benefit of, and in our difficult times is ever so needed. We will provide a permanent exemption to 1800 of the top scholars each year from the army to be supported by Israeli society. In the span of a generation, there will be 36,000 scholars immersed in Torah study, in the tradition of the Torah giants who whose shoulders the existence of our nation rests. We understand that at the tender age of 18 it can be hard to distinguish who will go on to succeed and flourish and who won't. Maimonides wrote "better 1000 fools shall perish than one wise man." Therefore, we have provided a 1000:1 ratio to insure that a chacham will emerge from every 1000 and each generation will have their 36 righteous leaders.

    We look forward to the holy chareidi leadership, embracing this plan and building shalom between all Jews going forward. We know they are our best and true leaders and have the needs of the entire country in mind.

    Yours Truly,
    Thousands of reasonable Israelis

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  58. To Kira: I couldn't agree more.

    To "ahg" - no, I'm not holding my breath either waiting for "the holy chareidi leadership, embracing this plan and building shalom between all Jews going forward." One of the reasons I think I indulged myself in that silly exercise was a bout of wishful thinking - if only someone on the haredi side would at least address this issue seriously, and state their position in a reasonably rational and honest way, then at least there might be some room for some kind of dialog. But I've just about given up hoping for that, which is why I support Yesh Atid and most or all of its platform regarding the haredim.

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