Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"Rabbis Do Not Need Protection"

The latest round in the debate about charedim and army has taken a fascinating twist.

In Rabbi Hoffman's original article arguing that yeshivah students should not serve in the army, he only referenced Gemaras that condemned the drafting of Torah scholars. Note that these Gemaras did not specify the reason why it is wrong to draft Torah scholars. Indeed, there are a number of possibilities.

When, however, it was pointed out that these Gemaras speak of talmidei chachamim, and thus presumably refer to talmidei chachamim, Rabbi Hoffman switched to a different Gemara, which was eagerly taken up by Rabbi Menken. The Gemara that they switched to was one stating that "The rabbis do not need protection" (and they argue that Rav Moshe Feinstein used this to demonstrate that yeshivah students should categorically not go to the army - later we shall see that this is far from clear).

At first, I didn't realize that there had been a switch. But as soon as I realized, I submitted the following comment to Cross-Currents: 
It is surely obvious that the Gemara does not mean that yeshivah students or even rabbis are immune from harm against the Arab threat. (I hope that pointing out this obvious fact will not mean that you will accuse me of saying that Torah=chess.) Do I need to remind you of the massacres at Chevron and at Mercaz HaRav? How about the fact that Beitar and Kiryat Sefer, towns that are full of Bnei Torah, need and request army protection? Obviously, then, in the face of the Arab threat, the yeshivah students and rabbis DO need protection. In which case, we are back to the issue of why it is fair for them to demand that only other people provide it.
Rabbi Menken, however, refused to post the comment, as he told me in an e-mail. His reason was extraordinary - he claimed that it was "not sufficiently germane" to the discussion!

I wrote back to him expressing my astonishment that he described this comment as "not germane." Rabbi Hoffman and Rabbi Menken cited this Gemara in support of the claim that yeshivah students should not be enlisted, because they "don't need protection." Yet the obvious reality, accepted by Charedim, is that yeshivah students and rabbis do need protection. There could hardly be a more germane comment than this!

Rabbi Menken responded that I "do not understand the Gemara." To this I responded:
Oh, for Heaven's sake. You yourself obviously do not believe that rabbis do not need protection from Arabs. So you have no idea why this Gemara would prove that yeshivah students should not serve in the army. You're just trying to hide behind Rav Moshe Feinstein.
Rabbi Menken responded by explaining the Gemara's statement that "the rabbis do not need protection" to mean that "that the rabbis offer protection from Arabs, they don't merely need it" (emphasis his). I fail to understand how inserting the word "merely" in the Gemara, and thereby totally inverting its meaning, is a valid approach to learning Gemara. I also fail to understand how explaining the Gemara to mean that "rabbis don't merely need protection" satisfactorily explains why they should not be drafted.

Still, Rabbi Menken steadfastly refused to print my comment. This makes a mockery of the claim that Cross-Currents makes about its comments policy:
The moderation of comments is not intended to stifle debate, but to keep it constructive. Comments entirely critical of positions taken by our contributors and of the Orthodox center to right-of-center ideologies we represent will be published. We believe in a way of life that can survive scrutiny and critique. It will be our job to respond.
It's a pity that, unlike other writers at Cross-Currents, Rabbi Menken does not live up to its stated approach. But meanwhile, what of the Gemara's claim that "Rabbis do not need protection," and what of Rav Moshe Feinstein? Even if Rabbi Menken is not going to reconcile this with reality, the rest of us would like to!

Regarding the Gemara, as I have noted in the past, Radvaz 2:752 greatly restricts the extent of the Gemara's ruling. This includes stating that it does not apply in cases where the rabbis consider themselves in need of protection. Chasam Sofer says that it only refers to exemptions from city taxes that are placed upon Jews in exile, not for defense against genuine military threats. Radvaz and Chasam Sofer thus accept the obvious truth that in the threat posed to Israel by its Arab neighbors, rabbis do very much need protection.

What, then, are we to make of the ruling of Rav Moshe Feinstein? First of all, it should be noted that Rav Moshe is arguing with the Rama (YD 243:2). Rav Moshe expands the Gemara to refer to yeshivah students. Rama says that it refers only to those who are fluent in most of the Talmud, commentaries and rulings of the Geonim.

Furthermore, David Ohsie pointed out that the responsum does not at all seem to mean what Rabbis Hoffman and Menken are taking it to mean:
The Teshuvah seems to be addressed to someone who was questioning the propriety of taking advantage of the draft exemption for those that learn in a Yeshiva instead of serving in the IDF. Rav Moshe appears to allow this exemption for two reasons:

A) We see from the Gemara in בבא בתרא that learning can take precedence over protecting the city.

B) Israel has recognized the importance of learning Torah, and thus exempted those that learn in a Yeshiva.

The Teshuvah does not address the following issues:

1) The Teshuvah does not imply that the learning provides protection for others. Nor does it claim that learning in a Yeshiva is enough to protect oneself from the threats facing Israel at any given time. It merely asserts that while protecting the country is a very important matter, learning Torah is even more important, so that taking advantage of a draft exemption is a moral choice. The evidence is that one may exempt oneself from sharing in payment for the protection of the city. Presumably, this would not be a valid choice for someone who merely had enough money to pay for private protection. He mentions at the end of the Teshuvah his desire that the action should be a Berachah and Haganah for Israel, but this is not the basis for the p'sak.

The Teshuvah doesn't even imply that those learning in a Yeshiva are providing protection for themselves; it is hard to imagine the country being threatened militarily or with terrorism and those who learn being automatically protected, as could be the case with burglars in a city. As has been pointed out by others, even those who learn, rationally vacate vulnerable areas when they are under active attack, and so admit that this protection does not apply even to themselves in this instance.

2) The Teshuvah does not address itself to the question of what level of exemption should be provided by the country. It is addressed to the morality of even accepting an exemption given that the country permits it. It makes no claim that the existing level of exemption must remain static forever. It also does not address evasion of the draft in opposition to the laws of the country.

3) The Teshuvah is not completely silent on the level of dedication or achievement needed to justify an exemption. It actually mentions that one can accept an exemption to become גדול בתורה ובהוראה וביראת שמים. Note the reference to becoming a Posek, not merely someone that learns. Presumably, not everyone who learns in a Yeshiva is material for becoming a Posek.
Thus, not only is the Gemara not saying that yeshivah students should automatically be exempt from the draft, and not only does Rama make it clear that there is no reference here to yeshivah students - even Rav Moshe Feinstein is not necessarily saying that yeshivah students should automatically be exempt from the draft.

Rabbis do need protection from the Arab threat. (Similar to how Rabbi Menken needs protection from comments that undermine his argument.) It is unfair (as well as lacking any clear source in Chazal or the Rishonim) to demand that this protection be provided solely from people outside the charedi community. Indeed, this point is made explicitly in an early responsum from an early Rav Moshe: "Shall your brothers go to war, while you remain here?"


  1. Ho hum. The have no good answers, and they know that "Torah=magic" makes them look ridiculous, and in this context, astoundingly callous and cowardly.
    And it is disappointing though perhaps not surprising that, having opened the discussion, they refuse to follow through or even attempt to answer your points, Rabbi Slifkin.
    As the old joke goes, "It won't help. it's turtles all the way down.

  2. The Chareidi ideology is designed to make claims that will be accepted by a blind public because they are inherently prevented from questioning anything originating from da'at Torah. It was never intended to stand up to legitimate scrutiny, and it clearly cannot withstand that scrutiny.

    The moment these Rabbis, so called, refuse to let genuine argument be posted in the comments was the moment they lose ALL credibility in every issue.

    End of story as far as I'm concerned.

  3. No amount of discussion will change their mind. Infact, likely it will do just the opposite. The more public the discussion, the more they will insist that they are correct with their fingers in their ears.

    What's the point? Disengage and move on.

  4. Rabbi Slifkin

    Thanks for altering us to this latest twist in the discussion.

    I'm struggling to keep up with this but, I just don't get this idea of Torah study means a community or individual will somehow be protected, how does that explain the past 2,000 years of Jewish history and as for the successes of Israel in war, might that have something to do with the fact that Jews actually organised an army and could use weapons? On that basis alone this argument of Torah study means you'll be protected is a verifiable nonsense * or to quote another grand sounding phrase 'Reductio ad absurdum', to me at least.

    Chana, good point. As it seems time for 'dredging the barrel' arguments wise, perhaps there will be an argument coming through that Torah study gives one powers akin to 'the force' from star wars?

    *so I'd rather continue to teach my kids basic martial arts alongside them learning Torah

  5. I agree with the other commenters that the debate is hopeless, in the sense that the other side is not engaging in good faith and not interested in the truth. However, I appreciate your steadfastness in fighting the good fight, Rabbi S.--someone has to.

  6. Arguing from sources is pointless with people who have an extreme charedi hashkafa. To them Judaism is defined as what the Gedolim say, period. The sources or precedent or any other factor is irrelevant.

  7. The goal is not to convince the True Believers, because they pay little attention to either argument or evidence. The goal is to construct a plausible alternative to those who are already suffer from cognitive dissonance.

  8. YD 243:2 . After the Mechaber states talmidei hachamim are absolved from taxes and paying for security, he defines Torato umanuto. Rema narrows talmid hacham to one who knows most of Talmud, it's commentaries, and the decisions of the Geonim.
    Very few can claim this at all, let alone 22 year olds.

  9. What is fascinating is that R' Menken wrote a long column praising the video production Megilas Lester. Myself and a few others pointed out that is video was banned by the Lakewood Roshei Yeshivas because the video “profanes and embarrasses the holy." Take a look at R' Menken's response, quite a bit different then his post about teh draft "To be Chareidi means to recognize the authority of Gedolei Torah in all Torah matters"

  10. Rabbi Pruzansky has a very good response to this whole thread as well. See http://rabbipruzansky.com/2014/03/14/an-exchange/

  11. When all the charedim move to Iran to prove (after their first demonstration against the openings of the restaurants and movie theaters and cars driving through their neighborhoods on Shabbath, if they would even dare, not to mention their refusal for enlisting into the Iranian army, if they live that long) that they really don't need protection from the Arabs, all us doubters would be a laughing stock.

  12. Interesting is the kollel system supporters don't point to R' Moshe's position that yissachar zevulen only works if it a complete and true partnership pooling 2 individuals resources, income etc.
    Joel Rich

  13. I agree with the comments about the futility of attempting to present cogent counter-arguments to positions taken in Cross-Currents by Menken and cohorts. His attitude was demonstrated many years ago when he ran the Project Genesis website. At the time, he was pushing the Torah Codes ideology. When I offered a reasoned rebuttal to the assumptions and methodology of the 'evidence' for the Codes provided in that Statistical Science paper, my comments were edited by Menken. He then offered a response together with the owner of the Torah Codes website. This was very unusual for that site, but evidence for willingness to censor views that disagree with dearly held notions. At the time, my position was supported by Rabbi Adlerstein - a more prominent Codes opponent. I was surprised to learn later that he had joined with Menken in the Cross-Currents blog. It's probably best to simply disregard that blog given their attitude towards critical comments.

  14. Moshe Dick writes:
    Well, Rabbi Slifkin is in good company. My comments on 'cross-currents" were censored too and even a subsequent discussion by email was declined by Rabbi Menken. As I wrote in another comment, the big divide is not even about what "talmidei chachomim' are and the interpretation of some of the more esoteric quotes in Poskim but how to deal with contemporary issues. The chareidi world follows blindly any saying by someone they consider a godol without questioning its rationale. This they call 'daas torah". Rabbi Menken himself, in his attack on Rabbi Slifkin, talks about the "gedolim" as 'einei ho-eidah", the eyes of the people, and claims that they are omniscient and see everything better than we, mere mortals. When questions arise about such recent events as pre-Holocaust Europe, how Israel would look today under Moslem rule (advocated by NK and Satmar!), how should a nation share its sacrifices , they always, always fall back on the premise that we must follow the gedolim and cannot ask questions. Well, count me out of that one. Too many (chareidi) jews perished in the Holocaust for me to believe that Gedolim see everything. They do not. Add to that the inplacable hostility of many chareidi Gedolim to the state of Israel (in spite of all the miracles!) and the disaster that would have taken place if,indeed, Moslems ruled Israel, and so-called 'daas torah" leaves me cold. Apart from the fact that it is indeed s modern invention but that debate for another day. So,although Rabbi Slifkin and others try valiantly to interpret various teshuvos from Rabbi Elyashiv and R"Moshe, it is useless to do so. Even if ,indeed, R"Moshe zz'l thought that a yeshiva bochur should not go to the army because Torah will protect him, such a psak flies in the face of reality and history. Because we were in golus for two thousand years, there is not a large body of halacha concerning war, the draft and issues that go with it. The present Poskim are using a model that is outdated- today, we are in Eretz Yisroel and it must be defended against its enemies. Proper respect must be given to the elite of talmidei chachomim but the present way of the chareidi world can only lead to catastrophe.No amount of daas torah will change that for me.I know that I can be branded a "kofer' by some chareidim for these words. well, so be it.

  15. To get a real good laugh or a bout of nausea (your choice), check out c-c's latest offering, in which Jonathan Rosenblum whitewashes Hitler, of all people, in an attempt to get charedim on the right side of history.

  16. I think that Rosenblum, in that article, is actually trying to say that the Atzeres was wrong.

  17. Rabbi slifkin, The rema does not say that one must be fluent in most of shas, but rather he says he needs to be "mievin midato" meaning he must be able to understand it on his own (without help). which is the level of an average 18 year old. Secondly,reb moshe never said that his "heter" is contingent on the government backing it. He merely says (in passing) that "it seems that the government also recognizes this". Nothing more.

  18. What, then, are we to make of the ruling of Rav Moshe Feinstein? First of all, it should be noted that Rav Moshe is arguing with the Rama (YD 243:2). Rav Moshe expands the Gemara to refer to yeshivah students. Rama says that it refers only to those who are fluent in most of the Talmud, commentaries and rulings of the Geonim.

    I would go further and say that it is even possible that Rav Moshe would agree with the Rama's interpretation of the Gemara. All that Rav Moshe takes from the Gemara is that when there is a choice between the important job of protecting the city and the important job of Torah learning, it is possible for Torah learning to take precedence as more important. Presumably, he deduces this from the fact that the Rabanan could have worked more and paid for guards instead of learning despite their lack of need for guards. Someone who has enough money to pay for private guards to protect himself would still be required to pay the tax. Only Rabanan were exempted because, in addition to not needing protection, they are involved in something more important.

    That is enough to prove that it is moral to take the exemption offered by the government as long as you are involved in Torah (or learning to be a Posek). You are also doing something very important, and perhaps more important. You need not say that those specific learners would be exempt from a tax to pay for security, if in fact the city assessed the tax on them. (Of course the modern tax system based mostly on either income, property or consumption taxes instead of a "poll tax" might also be treated differently in Halacha).

  19. I really don't think that this is what Rema means.

    רק שהוא מוחזק לת"ח בדורו שיודע לישא וליתן בתורה, ומבין מדעתו ברוב מקומות התלמוד ופירושיו ובפסקי הגאונים

    An 18 year old is hardly "a Torah scholar in his generation."

    In the words of R. Dov Lior - קשה למצוא היום מישהו שעונה להגדרה שמובאת ברמ"א.

  20. Rabi Slifkin: I agree with you as opposed to Nahum. I think Rosenblum's article is a rather subtle and necessarily indirect, but rather strong critique of the recent rather vociferous Haredi public protests against the various proposals re drafting Haredim. Ostensibly he exempted the atzeret from his critique, but even so "mikhlal hen ata shomea lav," from the positive one can infer the negative. Note particularly his criticism of those who append YM"S to the names of their political oponents. What eminent Haredi rabbinic leader did exactly that recently? Rosenblum is a bold man, indeed.


  21. With regard to the Gemara in Bava Batra, I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the analyses of Chazon Ish (Bava Basra 5:18) and R. Moshe Feinstein himself in Dibros Moshe to Bava Basra, in the he'aros on the first perek printed after the shiurim, he'arah 38. The latter source can be seen on HebrewBooks.org - Dibros Moshe, Bava Basra vol. 1, pg. 146.

  22. Even if Rosenblum was being critical of the Atzeret (and I don't think this was the case), it was from a tactical and PR point of view.

    His criticism of the use of the 'spewing of venom' is predicated entirely on how it might help 'our enemies'. Apparently, in Rosenblum's view (at least as expressed on CC), there's nothing inherently wrong with calling people calling for Shivyon Banetel Reshaim and Amalek etc.

    It's pretty shocking, actually, if you think about it. The truth is that he's probably a lot more moderate than this but he knows he can't put what he really thinks in writing.

    1. I agree with you. I wrote this piece to be put in the mishpacha magazine. So his tone has to fit in the hashkafah of the magazine, but the use of venom or hate of our ennemies show that he is standing behind the all propaganda charedi. I put a comment on CC asking politely few questions, but my comment so far was not edited. He is a smart man who can hold lmoderate positions when they fit him, but he is a PR for the hard line charedi . No question about that.

  23. Ploni (please use a pseudonym), that's a great find - the Dibros Moshe is at http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=47547&st=&pgnum=146&hilite=

    It certainly adds support for David Ohsie's reading of Igros Moshe.

  24. 1 - It was important that you address Rabbis Hoffman's and Menken's use of the psak by Rav Moshe, mainly because it was the only argument in Rabbi Hoffman's original post that was worth addressing (the Manhattan Project thing was embarrassing). I tried to post similar comments on Cross-Currents and was filtered out, presumably because they constituted an attempt to 'prove that the Charedi Gedolim are wrong'.

    2 - Does anyone really think this is a source-based Halachic discussion anymore. After the invective coming from the Gedolim themselves, it's impossible to take them seriously anymore.

    3 - The 'Purim Torah' title was about as low as one can get, although grudgingly calling you a Rabbi was pretty bad too.

    4 - I'm not sure how many people here saw the clip of Jonathan Rosenblum's lecture in L.A., which was quickly removed, KGB-style, apparently with Jonathan's consent.

    What Jonathan did was present a clear critique, albeit in moderate tones, of the Charedi world in Israel, emphasizing that the Kollel-for-All paradigm cannot continue. The most telling moment on the clip is at the end, where the host felt the need to emphasize that we should understand that the lecture was not criticism of the Gedolim, who's goal it is to promote as much learning as possible. Meaning that Jonathan's lecture could easily be interpreted as a scathing criticism of the Gedolim, who have blindly led the Charedim to their current situation, focusing on learning at the expense of everything else. After all, the Charedim claim that everything they do is with the approval of their Gedolim. What the host was unknowingly admitting is that the Gedolim can't really be trusted to make these decisions for the Charedi world, because they are biased towards getting as many people as possible into learning.

  25. "I think that Rosenblum, in that article, is actually trying to say that the Atzeres was wrong."

    No, he was most definitely supporting it.

    "The ultimate *support* for the atzeres tefillah, however, comes from Megillas Esther. Mordechai called upon the Jews of Shushan to fast and pray for Esther – to direct their words Heavenward – not to waste words on expressing their contempt for Haman."

  26. The way that the Chazon Ish defines a talmid chacham also shows that it means someone exceptional, not stam a yeshivah bochur:

    "תלמיד חכם - היינו חכם גדול בהלכה, היודע את עומק המשא ומתן של הלכה על פי המקובל בידינו מדור דור, ולמד רוב מקומות התלמוד". [ה'חזון איש', אמונה וביטחון, ג, כג]

  27. @RNS
    Pit'chei Teshuva YD 243:3 citing Kenesset Yechezkael agrees with the basic reading of Rema. He says that since it is rare, the talmid hacham must be specifically excused from taxes by the community. He does add that teachers and practicing rabbis are excused. (and hence don't need security..)
    That being said, I do think that there are many who do fit Rema's criteria. Not at age 18 or 22, but there are quiet a few talmidei hachamim around that most definitely know most of Shas with basic commentaries and Poskim.

  28. FWIW, here were my comments on the Hitler reference:

    In every chareidi history of American Jewry’s responses to the Holocaust, one event always merits special mention l’gnai (for criticism) – a mass protest called by secular Jewish organizations in the mid-1930s calling for a boycott of German products. Those histories cite credible reports that Hitler, ym”sh, was enraged by the protests and thereby strengthened in his determination to exterminate the Jewish people from the face of the earth.

    With all due respect: Really, Rabbi Rosenblum? And I suppose that if Czechoslovakia had simply ceded Sudetenland earlier, it would have been left to live in peace. And the Poles somehow made the same silly mistake. Good thing that the allies were so compliant, or Hitler would have really gotten riled up, and who knows what might have happened?

    I think that we can safely say that over-reaction to Hitler in the mid-30′s was hardly the problem.

    I’d add that if you are going to learn from the Purim story, it was Mordecai’s refusal to submit to Haman that was the proximal cause of the decree against the Jews. I think that we can understand that it was actually Mordecai’s insight into Haman’s true nature that led to his acts of “civil disobedience” and his taking seriously of Haman’s threat that led to his instruction to Esther to risk her life to oppose Haman.

  29. I sent the following comment in response to Mr. Rosenblum's article to Cross-Currents:

    Reportedly, the atzeres featured Tehillim 79, asking Hashem to pour out His wrath upon the wicked. Is that the meaning of not wasting their words expressing their contempt for Haman? In addition, banners and posters appeared everywhere, marking this a protest meeting and not solely a prayer meeting.

    And am I reading this analogy wrong, or is Mr. Rosenblum saying that the Israeli government is equivalent to Haman, or deserves as much contempt as Haman?

    I look forward to your response.

  30. Since I have been banned at Cross-Currents, I will have to make these comments about Rav Jonathan Rosenblum's column here instead:

    (1) I have seen this claim that Hitler y'shm was "enraged" at the boycott Jewish organizations were pushing against Nazi Germany in 1933 at Neturei Karta and other anti-Zionist propaganda sites. Does any historian take it seriously that it was this boycott which was the crucial even that made him decide to "go all the way"? All you have to do is read Mein Kampf which was written 10 years before he came to power and the poinsonous speeches he and his followers, particularly Goebbels was making up until the time he came to power. Boycotts are a legitimate form of protest against a despicable regime, e.g. the Iranian government. Has Rav Rosenblum made a call against sanctions there because of what might happen to the Jews remaining there?. The decision to really carry out the Holocaust came as a culmination of many factors, among them seeing the horrors Stalin was getting away with without any Western response, murdering millions in the years BEFORE World War II, incidents like the SS St. Louis (the "Voyage of the Damned") where he saw none of the "liberal " Western powers were willing to take in many Jewish refugees, and finally, his invasion of the USSR in which all civilized rules of warfare were thrown in the junkheap, even against non-Jewish Russians, leading to 20 million Russia (actually, Soviet) dead in the War.

    (2) Regarding Chaim Weizmann, yes he was pretty negative about the religious community much of his life. Recent events have lead me to be interested in why someone like him who grew up in a traditional Eastern European Jewish home developed views such as he had. In any event,I heard Rav Simcha Kook of Rehovot say that when Weizmann passed away, they found a Yom Kippur Machzor open by his bed to the page with the vidui, so we should be careful in judging other Jews.

  31. It is not worth the time to read anything by Yaakov Menken. The man does nothing but spew vitriol and hypocrisy. And it is apparent that he is simply not learned. There's just no substance to him.

    As for Cross Currents generally, there's a lot about it that can drive you crazy. It still prints articles by Avi Shafran, even though no one in the world cares what he says. (That's what happens when you duck comments - you get ignored.) It pretends to be open minded, but in reality censors out anything that hits home. And its writers feel obligated to defend Charedim, even when its clear they don't even believe what they're saying themselves. (Both the charedim and the CC writers.) Still and all, it's a worthy site. Kind of like what you always say about Mishpacha magazine. While others may laugh at its pieties, it exposes people to things who would otherwise have no exposure whatsoever.

  32. How about the chart of Israeli losses in various wars provided by Rabbi Hoffman? It does show generally reverse correlation between the losses and the number of yeshiva students.

  33. see http://jewishworker.blogspot.co.il/2014/03/is-there-causality-between-number-of.html

  34. Lazar said...
    How about the chart of Israeli losses in various wars provided by Rabbi Hoffman? It does show generally reverse correlation between the losses and the number of yeshiva students.

    With Rabbi Slifkin's indulgance of my double post, here is what I posted and is still "awaiting moderation":

    Rabbi Hoffman, the statistical analysis doesn't support your thesis.

    1) If you throw your data points into a scatter plot (easy to do in excel), you will not see the “clear inverse relationship” you claim.

    2) By throwing out 1956, you are cherry picking data to fit your thesis. You mention that 1956 was “a limited military operation”, but was it more or less limited than “Cast Lead”? This is besides the fact that you could have picked many measures other than the number of military deaths. Why not pick the number of deaths per year due to terrorist attacks? That seems much more independent of military effort and thus much more dependent on “spiritual protection”.

    3) You do not consider other equally plausible correlations, such as that fact that deaths are going down with time. If I throw your data into a simple linear correlation, I get a R^2 value of 0.3534. If instead, I plot your values for deaths against the number of years since 1948 (going from 0 up to 64) I get an R^2 value of 0.6669.

    4) As Eli points out correctly, there are many, many other variables to consider, such as the length of time of the conflict, the number of soldiers involved.

    5) Correlation doesn’t imply causation: as this chart famously demonstrates.

    6) You are using the number of Yeshiva students by some count as a proxy for the amount of learning going on. Is it really true that there was 15x as much Torah learning going in in Israel in 1982 vs. 1973?

  35. About the attack on Mercaz - has anyone else heard people respond to the argument of the unfairness toward those of us who send our sons to risk their lives vs Chareidi mothers who do not, that the attack on Mercaz proves that yeshiva students' lives are also at risk?

  36. The discussion oconcerning the the anti-Nazi Jewish boycott in 1933 calls to mind an episode that the Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin relates in his Teshuvat Ivra. According to Rav Henkin, Rav Elchanan Wasserman once confronted Rav Chayim Ozer Grodzinsky about his failure to condemn Jewish activism against the Nazis in violation of the Sages' proscription of rebellion against the nations. Rav Chayim Ozer reportedly responded: "The people of Israel are also a nation." On this, Rav Henkin comments: "But many Gedolim in fact disagreed with him about this..." (Kitvei HaGRY"E Henkin, Vol. I, p. 217)

  37. Actually, now that I think about it, charedi "history" ever since that infamous article in the Jewish Observer has been all about blaming Jews- always "other" Jews, of course- for the Holocaust, never the Nazis.

    And, of course, anyone who doesn't realize that this was a protest, plain and simple, is fantasizing.

  38. Here is an interesting statement Rav Jonathan Rosenblum made in his comment at Cross-Currents:

    In addition, if we permit ourselves to spew forth venom and hatred, however understandable our imprecations may be, we not only reinforce the reciprocal hatred of our enemies, but also create sympathy for them, and thereby strengthen their hand.

    I find it interesting and significant that he uses the word "enemies" and not "opponents" or "critics".

  39. "Rabbis Do Not Need Protection" -- yet over the course of Jewish history, many hundreds of thousands of very pious and learned Jews, including Rabbis, have perished at the hands of our enemies.

    During the Holocaust many God-fearing Torah-learners were rounded up and either worked to death or gassed to death by the Nazis.

    From a plain look at Jewish history, how can one possibly say that "Rabbis do not need protection"?

  40. You know what's the saddest part of all this? That you spent Purim arguing with Rav Mencken instead of sitting with friends and enjoying yourself.

  41. Rabbi Slifkin, as much as I enjoy reading the posts regarding the draft- I think the topic has been exhausted. I, along with others, would enjoy hearing about subjects directly related to the blog name.
    Thank you for your attention.

  42. Anonymous Lion of Israel said...

    4 - I'm not sure how many people here saw the clip of Jonathan Rosenblum's lecture in L.A., which was quickly removed.


    Two people sent me links to the audio, one or both of these should work if you want to hear that lecture:



  43. Joe Q. said...
    > From a plain look at Jewish history, how can one possibly say that "Rabbis do not need protection"?

    Ah, but you see, those rabbis were karbanos. They died so that thousands of ordinary Jews wouldn’t have to. If not for them and the zechus of the learning of all the talmidei chachamim down through the generations, how much worse Jewish history would have been!

    There are answers for everything. Now, whether they’re *good* answers…

    Years ago, I was at a levaya for a young woman with my (very yeshivish) brother. The hespedim were all about what a pure person she was and how she was a korban for klal yisroel. After the levaya was over my brother said to me, “What if she wasn’t a korban so that a thousand others wouldn’t have to die. What if she was one of the thousand?”

  44. Garnel:

    What makes you think he doesn't enjoy this?

  45. interestingly one can make a chart that deaths went down with the increase use of Iphones, internet, TV and many other things the charedi leaders look to as eveil.

    Of course that proves nothing just like Rabbi Hoffman chart

  46. During the Holocaust many God-fearing Torah-learners were rounded up and either worked to death or gassed to death by the Nazis.

    You do realize that the default and obvious conclusion is that people who were murdered in the Holocaust were necessarily NOT-G-d fearing or "Torah-Learners".

    (Please note that I am arguing ad absurdum, note expressing a sincere personal belief.)

    The problem I have with the notion that Limud Torah is itself protective, and thus the people engaged in Limud Torah are physically protected/exempt from communal duties is that it requires magical thinking. If this is a "required belief" then any act that results in harm to people engaged in Limud Torah by default disproves the validity of that belief, and by extension the entire belief system is corrupt.

    The consequence of this is that repetition of the events listed in the article (Hebron massacre, Merkaz Ha Torah etc.) will result in more jews abandoning shmirat mitzvah. It is for this reason that such nonsense beliefs should not only be challenged, but should be repudiated.

  47. A response to the rejection of a comment:

    Rabbi Menken: What I have not let through are several comments attempting to “prove” yet again that the Chareidi Gedolim are wrong, or more particularly that all of Reb Moshe’s foremost talmidim somehow misunderstood the parameters of his Teshuvah and they know how to read it better.

    Rabbi Menken, could you share with us these interpretations by Talmidim that you believe are authoritative as to the meaning of the Teshuvah? The bare fact that Talmidim are of a certain opinion and perhaps even cite the Teshuvah in support of their opinion is not the beginning even of evidence that the Teshuvah is "clear and unambiguous". I presume that you refer to Talmidim who possess some level of greatness in their own right and use their own judgement as well as reading of halacha to give their opinions on practical political topics. If so, their opinion is their opinion and not proof that even they believe that their conclusion is compelled by the meaning of the Teshuvah without some additional evidence. It would also be helpful if one of those talmidim was more "left-wing" in his outlook, yet admitted to disagreeing with his Rebbe on this topic.

    More generally, if you are going to make an argument based on the "unambiguous" meaning of a source, then cutting off analysis of that source, and making an argument by authority indicates that there is ambiguity.

  48. I find Rav Rosenblum's comment about Rabbinical opposition to the boycott of Nazi Germany to be very enlightening, in regards to my quest as to why so many people who were born into the world of Torah turned so strongly against it. One of the major factors that embittered Jews who lived through that period was the perception of religious Jews being very passive in the face of persecution and a general "turn the other cheek" attitude which may (or may not) have worked during the Middle Ages, but which seemed to be so wholly inadequate to the totalitarian challenges of the 20th century. I heard it myself from old-timers when I came to Israel that Jews of that era were simply tired of being kicked around. As someone who came to Torah observance inspired by the stories of heroism in ancient days in the TANACH and by modern sagas of the fighters of the ETZEL, LEHI as well as the Haganah, Palmach and later the IDF, I can really understand these people's feelings.

    Rav Rosenblum himself wrote an article a couple of months ago strongly criticizing President Obama for lifting sactions (i.e. boycotts) on Iran and he even compared Obama unfavorably with Neville Chamberlain. He was blasted for this at Cross-Currents by Marvin Schick. Apparently he has learned to look at these things in a new way. Is it possible today to convince Jews to revert to the old, passive ways?

  49. By the way, if we're taking Hitler at his (supposed) word, we need look no further than, well, his own book, Mein Kampf. In it, he says that at one point he thought Jews would be able to assimilate well, but then he saw what we would call a "charedi" Jew on the streets of Vienna, black hat and all, and decided it would never happen.

    Do I believe Hitler? Of course not. Do I blame non-assimilating charedim for the Holocaust? Of course not. But it makes just as much sense, maybe more, as Rosenblum's little fantasy.

    Of course, as is painfully obvious sometimes, Rosenblum and Mencken were handed a very specific, limited set of "facts" as an introduction to Judaism and Jewish history, and can't really see any others, lest their entire mahus be called into question.

  50. Was the call for the boycott of Germany after the Nuremburg Laws and /or Kristallnacht? At that point, it was clear in what direction Germany waw going, and their actions would deserve some kind of sanctions against them.

    Even though the Hitler example is a bad one, I still think Jonathan Rosenblum's main point is correct: we shouldn't make any incendiary statements against people in power now (calling them Hitler, Nazis, Amalek, etc.) because we might find ourselves allied with them in the future.
    I remember, during Netanyahu's first term as PM, Ehud Barak (who was opposition leader then), yelled at Bibi in the Knesset, "Yoni [Netanyahu] would be ashamed of you!" Netanyahu was so upset, that he broke down crying. Just a few years later, Netanyahu had Barak as his Defense Minister.

    Another example: after quelling the second intifada, someone said that, after all, we can't expel the Arabs from Israel, and we have to find some way to live together. Isn't it all the more so, when we're talking about Jews with different political viewpoints?

  51. Answering my own question, I see that the Anti-Nazi boycott was in 1933--but it was in response to anti-Semitic policies that Hitler already implemented. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Nazi_Boycott_of_1933
    I don't think that not boycotting Hitler would have improved the situation anyway.

  52. > Rosenblum and Mencken were handed a very specific, limited set of "facts" as an introduction to Judaism and Jewish history, and can't really see any others, lest their entire mahus be called into question.

    I met R' Yaakov Mencken when he was a young man in Princeton, the only one in the Orthodox community wearing a black hat, which he had adopted not long hence. (Back then he was known as "Ken".) He was an inspiration to me, showing that one does not have to compromise Torah to attend university.

    Neither he nor Jonathan Rosenblum are limited in their education, knowledge, or intelligence.

    Back then, being "yeshivish" meant being committed to Torah in a way that the "modern" community was not. What they were seeking was authentic, uncompromising, Torah-based truth.

    We were all on the same side back then. R' Mencken even asked me to moderate Project Genesis' Torah Forum, one of the earliest discussion groups online. Eventually, it turned out that the moderators were too, well, moderate, and Project Genesis dropped it from their site altogether, including the archives.

    The day after the Atzeres, I had a long online conversation with a friend of similar background - grew up "normal" Orthodox, lives in Israel and identifies mostly as Chareidi (although of the type that interact to a great extent with the wider community, with Chessed and Torah - she'yirbu kemotam). Ultimately, she would not counter any of my arguments, but had to revert to "But the Gedolim must know what they're doing". She told me that she prefers the life and values of Chareidim to that of DL. And to be Chareid means that she has to say, "the Gedolim know best", even if it appears to fly in the face of other Torah values. It is a price she has to pay.

    It seems to me that R' Yaakov Mencken and Yonasan Rosenblum also have to pay this price.

    It is one of the crimes of this new value system that it corrupted people of such high caliber, vision, and commitment.

  53. Brooklyn Refugee SheygitzMarch 19, 2014 at 3:09 PM

    While I agree with what Kira wrote, I don't think we can say that "we were all on the same side back then". Even 20-30 years ago the average newcomer to Ohr Sameach after six months knew more about why the Mizrachi was treif, Zionism wwas evil, and all about the intra-religious politics and ideological fights, than he knew how to read a posuk in Tanach or learn a blatt gemara. I remeber speaking to some of these guys when they were still "fresh meat" and I just couldn't believe what I was hearing at times.
    It was indoctrination - pure and simple. It's just a bit more extreme now - which reflects the passage of time as the charedi cult has continued to develop into a new religion with more extreme and cognitive dissonant views. That's all.

  54. I'm sure they have education, knowledge, and intelligence- in the areas that they did *not* learn from their charedi educators.

    But, as I said, it becomes quite clear from many of their articles that their knowledge of Jewish history and even Judaism is very limited, and often includes the worst sort of charedi tropes, cliches, and distortions.

  55. ""that the rabbis offer protection from Arabs, they don't merely need it""

    LOL, wut?

    So here we have a case of people refusing to engage your arguments because "you don't understand the gemara" when their so-called understanding of it is nonsensical and said by no one in history until now. And yet we have to accept their explanation of the gemara or else we're all amei haaretz.

    Seems like projection. They don't understand how they can possibly explain the gemara to fit with their view, so they accuse their opponent of not understanding the gemara properly when he argues against them based on its plain meaning.

  56. Brooklyn Refugee SheygitzMarch 19, 2014 at 3:45 PM

    There are people who have suggested that this blog should stop.
    This blog is VERY important. People who are searching for authentic judaism - and with the rejewvination of Israeli life that means a lot more people these days (including people from English speaking countries) - need to understand that TODAY the charedi world is not "authentic" Judaism. Not by any means. It is a cult, a spin-off from Judaism which involves a lot of Jewish practice and belief. Including many Jewish practices and beliefs that other religious and/or believing Jews practice (which is why there is still a certain degree of affinity between the two groups). But the bottom line is that charedi practice and belief is NOT authentic Judaism. People must be made aware of this.
    For many years when a religious zionist was posed with the hypothetical question as to what would be preferable for their children - to marry a charedi or a secular israel. The naswer almost always was - a charedi.
    I'm not sure that would be the answer today - and not because the religious zionist has a "watered down" form of Judiasm and has been "influenced" by western culture to such an extent as to have more affinity with a chiloni.
    No, the reason is that by marry a secular zionist Israeli who believes that he is part of the Jewish people and the Jewish state, the child is staying within klal yisrael and am yisrael. With the rejewvination of much of Israeli life the child will celebrate national Jewish holidays and practice many (if not most) Jewish practices. They are more likely to end up keeping an "authentic" form of Judaism, than the child who marries a charedi and will bring up their family in a cult, with cult-like practices and beliefs, and be disconnected from reality and disconnected from the Jewish people. That's even before subjecting the child's family to either extreme poverty or the extreme form of cognitive dissonance that goes hand-in-hand with the educated, professional yet charedi types.

  57. Brooklyn Refugee Sheygitz

    For me authentic traditional Judaism is Torah practice as much as Torah study or belief (important of course as that is), with a emphasis on family bonds, community ties and the feeling that Jews- of whatever background- are all part of the same nation or family and that Jews aren't supposed to hide away from the world but to be a light to it. Of course there is more to Judaism than this, but it is a place to begin.

  58. Ah, but you see, those rabbis were karbanos. They died so that thousands of ordinary Jews wouldn’t have to. G*3

    Ahhh... so they died for our sins.

    This happened a couple of millennia ago too.

    It sort of has the whiff of suspect theology.

    It also occurs to me that the idea of Limud Torah having physical protective values flys in the face of Iyov. Our Great Sages had the foresight to include that work of theodicey in our cannon. Our more recent sages encourage us not to learn it.

  59. Cross-Currents at long last published posts on J. Rosenblum's article. My two comments were censored.

    1.Reportedly, the atzeres featured Tehillim 79, asking Hashem to pour out His wrath upon the wicked. Is that the meaning of not wasting their words expressing their contempt for Haman? In addition, banners and posters appeared everywhere, marking this a protest meeting and not solely a prayer meeting.

    And am I reading this analogy wrong, or is Mr. Rosenblum saying that the Israeli government is equivalent to Haman, or deserves as much contempt as Haman?

    I look forward to your response.

    2. I brought up the famous Orthodox Rabbis' March on Washington to persuade Roosevelt to help the Jews and asked if, chas veshalom, these gedolei hador were guilty of indirectly causing the deaths of Jews in Europe.

    I don't think that these comments are beyond the pale. They respond to the body of the article.

  60. Well, Menken has responded with a post justifying his refusal to engage. In doing so, he engages in some rather nasty and childish insults. When I called him on it, he sent me an email threatening my future rights to post on his site. For some reason, that didn't really have the effect he intended on me.


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