Saturday, March 15, 2014

Torah, Army, and the Bizarre Chess Analogy

Rabbi Yair Hoffman has written a response to my critique of his article regarding Torah Study and the IDF, and posted it at Cross-Currents. Unfortunately, it seems that Cross-Currents does not permit me to post a response, and not even to post a comment linking to a response, so I can only hope that readers of Rabbi Hoffman's piece will somehow find their way here.

I. Torah = Chess?!

Rabbi Hoffman's primary counter-argument is simply... strange. In Rabbi Hoffman's original article, he referred to a number of statements in the Gemara that condemn the drafting of talmidei chachamim into the army. In my critique, amongst other objections, I pointed out that these statements specifically mention talmidei chachamim, and are not applicable to yeshivah students. I also pointed out that based on the actions of charedim themselves, it is apparent that they do not actually believe that yeshivah students provide protection. Here is Rabbi Hoffman's response:
Torah sources from the TaNach, through the Gemorah, the Rishonim, Acharonim, to the Gedolei Torah of the past generation all speak of the protective power of Torah.  There are essentially two types of people.  There are those who disagree with these sources (or try to minimize them by claiming that it is all Agaddatah, or only applies to great Torah scholars, or who try to point out that we don’t see it practically) – we will call these people “Torah = Chess” believers.  In other words they think that studying chess and studying Torah are equal in terms of their protective powers.
According to Rabbi Hoffman, if you do not say that the Gemara's references to talmidei chachamim also apply to people who are not talmidei chachamim, then you are saying that Torah=chess. How on earth does that make any sense? If you learn Chazal's words carefully, then you are saying that Torah=chess?! There are many halachos in the Gemara about talmidei chachamim. Nobody claims that they are all equally applicable to yeshivah students. There are even sources which state that nobody today rates as a talmid chacham by the Gemara's definition!

Rav Hershel Schechter addressed these sources in the context of addressing a question about charedim not going to the army, which he describes as "scandalous." Rav Schachter says as follows: "The Gemara says you don't draft talmidei chachamim. Every bochur in yeshiva is a talmid chacham?! It's not so." (You can listen to Rav Schachter at this link, starting at about 40:00 in the streaming version and 51:20 in the download.)

It is clearly absurd for Rabbi Hoffman to claim that Rav Schachter believes that "Torah=chess." I don't know whether Rav Schachter believes that the Torah study of a yeshivah student has protective powers or not, but it's irrelevant. Even if one believes that Torah study has some sort of protective power, this by no means necessarily translates into an exemption from army service!

Rav Schachter also quotes Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky as telling his grandson that if he lives in Israel, he has to go to the army. So Rabbi Hoffman is positing that according to Rav Yaakov, "Torah=chess"?

Or how about Rav Elyashiv, who also minimized a source in Chazal about the protective merits of Torah scholars? This was with regard to a wave of burglaries in a particular Charedi neighborhood. Rav Elyashiv stated that "The principle of תלמידי חכמים אינם צריכים שמירה only applies in a normal situation, before there is a rash of burglaries. However, now that there already was a rash of burglaries it would be considered a miracle for the talmid chacham not to be harmed. Therefore the principle of תלמידי חכמים אינם צריכים שמירה does not apply and everyone has to pay equally for the security company." So Rabbi Hoffman is positing that according to Rav Elyashiv, "Torah=chess"?

Or how about Radvaz? 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.  So Rabbi Hoffman is positing that according to Radvaz, "Torah=chess"?

It should further be noted that Rabbi Hoffman's blanket statement that "Gedolei HaPoskim" believe that these sources exempt yeshivah students from IDF service is simply not true. Aside from all the Israeli Religious Zionist Gedolei HaPoskim who clearly hold that at least most yeshivah students should serve in the army, here we have Rav Yaakov ztz"l and Rav Schachter shlita who clearly disagree with Rabbi Hoffman.

When Rabbi Hoffman states that "The Gemorah, the Midrashim, and contemporary Gedolei Torah both from the Zionist world and the Chareidi world all say that Torah protects," this is deeply misleading. Saying "Torah scholars protect" or even "Torah protects" does not equal "all yeshivah students should be exempt from the army."

II. Geographic Concentration

In my critique, I noted that the concept of Torah providing protection is that it is concentrated in the area where the Torah scholar actually is. Rabbi Hoffman claims that I "made this up." Really? Let's see. The Yerushalmi, Chagigah 1:7, speaks about teachers of Torah being the protectors of the city. In general, reason indicates that if one accepts the concept of zechus - merits created by good deeds - that they spread outwards, decreasing in intensity with distance. A person's merits are strongest for his immediate family, and for those in his town. For righteous people to have saved Sodom, they would have had to have been living in Sodom.

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

Yet the charedi Gedolim ordered the charedi yeshivos to flee from Ashdod. Why? There are two possibilities, and neither look good. One possibility is that they don't really believe that the Torah study of yeshivah students protects to the degree that soldiers are able to provide protection (which, according to Rabbi Hoffman, means that the Gedolim believe that Torah=chess). The other possibility is that they do believe that the Torah study of yeshivah students protects to the degree that soldiers are able to provide protection, but they also feel that the remaining risk is still one that yeshivah students should not take. But if soldiers are risking their lives to provide protection for others, why shouldn't yeshivah students do the same, if they are claiming an exemption from the army due to providing equivalent protection?

III. Protection from Economic and Health Problems

In my critique, I noted that the statements in the Gemara about the protective value of Torah scholars refer to protection from all kinds of harm – economic harm and disease as well as military threats. Yet one never sees that the charedi world considers themselves less requiring of help in these areas; if anything, the opposite is true! Rabbi Hoffman responds as follows:
Not sure what the point here is exactly.  Is Rabbi Slifkin attempting to disprove the statements in Chazal that Torah affords protection?  And aside from pandering to some stereotyped notions, how is he proving this exactly?  Because Chareidim recognize the need to go to top doctors?  Actually, Rabbi Slifkin is no longer minimizing “Torah > Chess.”  Here his point here is to show that “Torah = Chess.”  There is no other way of reading his challenge.
It is curious that Rabbi Hoffman claims that there is "no other way" of reading my challenge, because he has apparently failed to understand the plain meaning of my words. I was not attempting to disprove the statements in Chazal that Torah affords protection. Rather, I was demonstrating that Charedim themselves do not believe that their Torah study protects from economic and health problems such that they do not need to do their practical hishtadlus. In Rabbi Hoffman's world, this means that charedim believe that Torah=chess. For the rest of us, this means that charedim do not believe that aggadic statements about the protective benefits of a Torah scholar can be applied in a practical way today to the Torah study of the masses.

IV. Is There Really A Danger?

In my critique, I observed that it's just plain silly to claim that we would lose "crucial protection" if some (and not all) yeshivah students spend some time in the army. Yeshivos give their students a month off in Nissan, three weeks off in Tishrei, and three weeks off in the summer – and did so even during the war in the North. If that’s good enough for a fifth of the year, it’s hard to believe that a couple of thousand young men in the army at any given time, while there are tens of thousands still in yeshivah, can cause a crucial security problem. To this, Rabbi Hoffman responded that "Yeshiva students still study during Bein HaZmanim." Indeed, some study to a large degree. But most are learning only a small amount, which apparently is not a grave threat to national security. Indeed, as pointed out, they even did this during the war in the North. If it's safe to have such a decline in Torah study for a fifth of the year, why can't they spend some time in the army?

V. Gedolei Torah from the Zionist World
 
In Rabbi Hoffman's original article, he attempted to argue that Religious Zionist Gedolei Torah believed that yeshivah students should be exempt from army service. Rabbi Hoffman quoted a story about Rav Kook, and I pointed out that he neglected to mention that the incident concerned the British army in WWI, not the Israeli army defending Israel! Rabbi Hoffman claims that this omission is irrelevant, since "Rav Kook was arguing for a release based upon studying Torah." But it makes all the difference in the world when this is being weighed up against the small importance of helping England, versus the tremendous importance of defending the Jewish People and Israel (not to mention the fact that it was virtually impossible to eat kosher food and keep Shabbos in the British army).

It is none other than Rav Kook's son, Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, who described such misappropriations of Rav Kook's position as “a distortion and utter falsehood.” He explained that "whereas in England, the demand was that the yeshiva students fight for a foreign army, here we are fighting for our hold on the land of Israel and the holy city of Jerusalem. This is undoubtedly a milchemet mitzvah." Would Rabbi Hoffman have us believe that he understands Rav Kook's position better than Rav Kook's own son?!

I further pointed out that Rabbi Hoffman's attempts to recruit Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook and Rav Shaul Yisraeli in support of his thesis were a distortion of their views. Rabbi Hoffman does not argue with my correction - he simply says that others disagree. Indeed they do. But this does not mean that it was legitimate to misrepresent their view. Furthermore, here again we have Rabbi Hoffman effectively saying that according to Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook and Rav Shaul Yisraeli, Torah=chess!

VI. No Halachic Exemption for Torah Students

A crucial point that I stressed is that there is simply no traditional halachic exemption for yeshivah students. There are exemptions - in the case of milchemes reshus, but not for milchemes mitzvah - for people who are newly married, who have built houses, and who have planted vineyards. The precise details of these categories are discussed in halachic literature - does it apply to someone who has re-married? How many trees is considered a vineyard? There is no discussion in halachic literature of the details of the exemption for a yeshivah student, however. The reason is that there is no such exemption.

Rabbi Hoffman, however, claims that there is such an exemption in traditional halachic literature:
In Hilchos Shmitah v’Yovel 13:10 we learn of Shaivet Levi’s special status and treatment.  Three Halachos later (13:13) the Rambam says that anyone who wishes to devote himself to full time Torah study can share the status of Shaivet Levi.
I've addressed this much-abused Rambam in a dedicated post, but here is a brief summary. First of all, Rambam is not making a halachic statement here at all. As is common with the closing paragraphs of the different sections of the Mishneh Torah, Rambam here is presenting mussar rather than halachah.

Second, it stretches credulity to posit that Rambam, in discussing the halachos regarding going to the army in Hilchos Melachim u'Milchamos chapter 7, entirely omitted an extremely significant category of exemption, and simply obliquely hints at it elsewhere.

Third, Rambam is clearly not making a full comparison of Torah students to the tribe of Levi. The special status and treatment of Levi mentioned by Rambam includes that Levi does not gain a inheritance in the land of Israel. This did not and does not apply to Torah students!

Fourth, even if one wishes to claim that Rambam neglected to mention an exemption in Hilchos Melachim, and implies it here, what kind of person is Rambam talking about? Here is a quote from Rav Aharon Lichtenstein:
...Even if we grant that the Rambam's statement does imply a categorical dispensation in purely halachic terms, it remains of little practical significance. We have yet to examine just to whom it applies. A levi [sic] is defined genealogically. Those who are equated with him, however, literally or symbolically, are defined by spiritual qualities; and for these the Rambam sets a very high standard indeed. He present an idealized portrait of a selfless, atemporal, almost ethereal person - one whose spirit and intelligence have led him to divest himself of all worldly concerns and who has devoted himself "to stand before God, to serve Him, to worship Him, to know God; and he walks aright as the Lord has made him and he has cast off from his neck the yoke of the many considerations which men have sought." To how large a segment of the Torah community - or, a fortiori, of any community - does this lofty typology apply? To two percent? Five Percent? Can anyone... confront a mirror and tell himself that he ought not to go to the army because he is kodesh kodashim, sanctum sanctorum, in the Rambam's terms?
Again, however, the most straightforward understanding of Rambam is that there is no comparison of spiritual elites to the tribe of Levi vis-a-vis a halachic exemption from army service. Rav Asher Tanenbaum, who was the secretary of the Va'ad Ha-Yeshivot in Israel, heard from Ha-Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer that it is a falsification to claim based on this Rambam that yeshiva students are exempt from military service.

VII. The Issue of Fairness

In my critique, I noted that even if the current security situation does not require everyone to be drafted, it certainly requires a lot of people to be drafted. It is unacceptable for the charedi community to declare that this manpower should only be drawn from other communities and not from its own.  Rabbi Hoffman quotes an assessment from the top IDF experts that there is no manpower shortage. Well, there is also no shortage of dollars in the Jewish people, but that doesn’t mean that when someone comes collecting, you can simply avoid doing your part and rely on the dollars coming from others. The IDF has to recruit a certain number of people every year. Why should only non-charedim make up this manpower? Let us return to Moshe Rabbeinu’s words, “Shall your brothers go out to war, while you remain here?” He does not allow for these tribes to stay beyond the Jordan and learn Torah. And nor does he say that the extra manpower is needed. Rather, Moshe Rabbeinu makes a simple argument from fairness.

In response, Rabbi Hoffman states that the request is only to exempt those studying Torah, not the entire charedi community. He agrees that that the chareidi community should also participate if they are not learning Torah: "Rav Shteinman agreed as well, and was the driving force behind Nachal Chareidi. Unfortunately, the Yesh Atid initiative destroyed the growth opportunity for the recruitment of Nachal Chareidi."

Unfortunately, Rabbi Hoffman has matters exactly backwards. Had the charedi community been serious about sending non-Torah learners to the army, then the Yesh Atid initiative would never have gotten off the ground. Nachal Charedi only has around 1000 soldiers, which are actually mostly from the Zionist community. The Charedi community was never remotely interested in identifying which boys are not seriously learning in yeshivah and sending them to the army. The idea that a few hundred charedim in the army represents a fair sharing of the burden by the charedi community - a community that claims 66,000 draft exemptions - is absurd and offensive.

VIII. The Issue of Concern and Gratitude

The problem of charedim not serving in the army is compounded by their lack of concern and gratitude for those who do serve. Rabbi Hoffman agreed that it is important to express our sincere hakaras haTov and pray for the welfare and well-being of the IDF, and lamented that it is "unfortunate that some do not." To this, I objected that he is vastly downplaying the extent of the problem. It’s not “some” who do not. It’s the entire charedi world.

Rabbi Hoffman responded that "it is a significant amount, but it is not the entire Chareidi world.... There are many, many Chareidim who dedicate their learning and Tefilos to ensure the safety of soldiers and the populace. It is dishonest, and wrong to spew such hate speech."
Obviously I did not mean that there is not a single charedi person who davvens for the welfare of the IDF. But, as a general pattern, it is absolutely true to say that the charedim do not express hakaras hatov or pray for the safety of the soldiers, and absolutely false to say that only "some" do not.  Of the hundreds of thousands of charedim in the rallies last week, how many express hakaras hatov or pray for the safety of the soldiers? How many charedi shuls and yeshivos say the Misheberach for the IDF, or recite Tehillim for their welfare? How many charedi yeshivos dedicate their study sessions to the IDF? Does Mir? Ponovezh? Lakewood? Chevron? Kol Torah? Ateres Yisrael?

IX. The Issue of Unity

In the concluding part of my critique, I objected to Rabbi Hoffman's calls for unity. Rabbi Hoffman expresses surprise at this. But the reason for my objection is not that I am against unity. Rather, I strongly feel that unity does not mean refraining from criticizing the wrongdoing of others, and nor does it mean talking about love and peace. Unity is when everyone shares the responsibilities and concerns of the entire nation.

Virtually no charedim serve in the army. The entire charedi community just demonstrated against efforts to enforce army service for a relatively small number of charedim. Rabbi Hoffman wrote a very lengthy article which attempted to justify the charedi stance. It included just two sentences about how everyone should show concern and appreciation for those who serve, and it severely minimized the extent of the problem with those who do not. It also severely minimized the problem with charedim who, according to Rabbi Hoffman's own thesis, should serve in the army but do not. Rabbi Hoffman has not written an article for the charedi press about how they should show concern and appreciation for those who serve. Nor has he written an article for the charedi press about how they should identify who is not really learning in yeshivah and send them to the army. Yes, he wrote an article criticizing Ami magazine for stripping Rabbi Dov Lipman of his semicha and comparing him to a Nazi, and I commend him for this. But this is hardly sufficient.

So, yes, I repeat: Rabbi Hoffman, please spare us your calls for unity on this issue. If you are concerned about real unity, then please work to address the problem that charedim do not share the burden of army service. And if you are concerned about expressions of unity, then please work to address the problem that charedim do not express concern or gratitude for people in the army. In the meanwhile, please understand that many people, following the views of Gedolei Torah, differ with your understanding of the issue, and are severely disappointed and hurt by the charedi world. Like Rav Schachter, we consider it scandalous. This does not mean that we are "spewing hatred" or out to "bash charedim." Such condemnation of our perspective is not conducive to love, peace or unity.

68 comments:

  1. Actually, on the issues of Yeshivos staying put in the cities under fire, Rabbi Hoffman agreed with you. That's something

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  2. The quote from Rav Schachter begins around minute 50

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  3. I didn't see the following discussed in either of R' Hoffman's articles, nor either of yours: The Gemara in Bava Basra 8a which is the source that "רבנן לא צריכי נטירותא" says that the residents of the city have to pay for the wall but the Rabbis do not. Now why should anyone have to pay for the wall? The Rabbis' Torah will protect the entire city. Yet the halacha is that only the Rabbis are exempt. This would seem to indicate that only the Rabbis are protected by their Torah.

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  4. If this were a boxing match R. Hoffman would be unconscious and bloodied on the mat, with you dancing around him without a scratch!

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  5. > There is no discussion in halachic literature of the details of the exemption for a yeshivah student, however.

    Actually it's in the Torah. Right after the three main exemptions it mentions that those who are faint of heart also get to go home!

    At any rate, you must remember the simple principle of exceptionalism:
    You are either 100% with them or you are an enemy of Torah, a friend of the Czar, Eisav's wingman, etc.

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  6. Once again we have the "we don't pasken like Rambam" crowd distorting a statement of Rambam to give quasi-halachic credence to a modern cultural norm they favor which has no basis in any Jewish source. How do they not see the irony?

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  7. Unfortunately this almost seems like a R. Betech discussion where you are dealing with someone with a completely different epistemology
    (or possibly reality).

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  8. One wonders whether anyone from Cross-Currents can explain how it is acceptable for a supposedly respectable publication to post a critical article about someone...no, not just someone, but an internationally known rabbi... and then not to give the target the right of reply. There is no law they have to; it's just basic fairness, minimal courtesy, self-respect, honour and pride in one's publication. How embarrassing.

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  9. R' Natan -

    While I agree with you 100%, unfortunately, it does seem as if there is some kind of loose support for the idea that learning Torah provides protection, in some form or another, even if it's just regular Yeshiva guys, whether in the pask by Rav Moshe or elsewhere.

    While I think that the application of these extremely unclear (for example, do they protect everyone or just the learners?) psaks to the present-day situation in Israel is warped, I do think they need to be addressed head-on.

    Other than that, Rabbi Hoffman's piece is an insult to the intelligence of the reader.

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  10. I am surprised that you did not address the most anti-rationalist, absurd, and disturbing part of the piece - the learning-deaths chart. Is this being saved for another response?

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  11. Rav Slifkin-
    Thank you so much for your bold and comprehensive contributions to this very infortunate conflict that has broken out amongst Torah-observant Jews. As someone who became religious in University in Southern California in the 1970's, I thought Torah was beautiful and meaningful and the Jewish revival in Eretz Israel coming as a result of the Zionism movement was an inspiring fulfillment of the visions of the prophets. As the years passed it is was unpleasant to see how things that seemed so obvious to me were not to large parts of the religious communities and how this lead to tragic discord.
    I really apprecite your invaluable contributions which allow us to get to a full understanding of the issues involved and I hope you will continue in this vein.

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  12. Apparently Rabbi Hoffman thinks that pointing out that "shfoch chamascha" was recited at the asifa is "characterizing it as negatively as possible", yet he doesn't even feel the need to put a positive spin on it. So which is it, Rabbi Hoffman?

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  13. He gives raw numbers of deaths to "prove" that the more learners, the more success in wars. If we want to play that game, it should be pointed out that casualties go down for many reasons: Israel hasn't fought an actual foreign army since 1973, for one. Deaths have been going down everywhere, thanks to tactics, medicine, etc.: The US has been fighting in Afghanistan for far longer than it fought World War, and yet casualties are much less.

    On the other hand, Israel won decisively in 1948, 1967, and 1973. Since then...well, they've never lost.

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  14. Typo alert: Rav Schacter's name is misspelled in the first reference to him.

    Also, he would certainly qualify as a Religious Zionist.

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  15. R' Elyashiv ""The principle of תלמידי חכמים אינם צריכים שמירה only applies in a normal situation, before there is a rash of burglaries. However, now that there already was a rash of burglaries it would be considered a miracle for the talmid chacham not to be harmed."

    This suggests that learning protects only the learners, and therefore the argument that learning protects the whole country is fallacious.

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  16. Now a reality check: have you noticed that this blog has become yet another "Bash the Chareidim" forum"? I know it's not your intent and yes, your rebuttals to their idiotic statements are erudite and incisive but look at the majority of your recent posts. They're not about promoting the philosophy of Rationalist Judaism but rather they're responses to provocations from the Chareidi world.
    Cross Currents' modus operandi should be familiar by now. They post something ridiculous. In order to give the appearance of "fairness" they let a comment of yours through. Then they bash it with more weak arguments and push the [delete] button on any further reply so they can walk around and say "You see? We told him!" Why are you bothering?
    This whole draft argument was deliberately taken off the rails by both Yesh Atid and the Chareidi leadership when the decision was made to turn it into "We're out to draft Chareidim!" It made it personal and personal is what we got, insults and all.
    Instead I would suggest the Rationalist position should be as follows: "We are interested in a system in which all healthy males aged 18-21 do army duty or, if unable, some form of national service, regardless of religious, socioeconomic or biological background. The burden must be shared by all because we're all in this Israel project thing together". Then the copious Torah based sources supporting this position could be posted to show the legitimacy of this position.
    It's easy to go negative and we've been suckered into it. We need to remember the high road is the one that is harder to throw rocks at.

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  17. On the statistical "evidence", here is a comment awaiting moderation there:

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

    1) If you throw your data point 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 you 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.

    4) 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?

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  18. This whole draft argument was deliberately taken off the rails by both Yesh Atid and the Chareidi leadership when the decision was made to turn it into "We're out to draft Chareidim!" It made it personal and personal is what we got, insults and all. (Garnel Ironheart)

    Or, Yesh Atid may be trawling a red herring, with the Hareidi establishment picking up the scent and going, off baying and snarling in the wrong direction, as the government gently de-funds yeshivot and cuts welfare allowances and eligibilities. After all, no one has any illusions about the usefulness of drafting yeshiva men who need expensive accommodations and too many exemptions from this and that anyway.

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  19. You [i.e., R'Hoffman] 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?

    Lagging correlation between two statistical time series? :)

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  20. Garnel-
    I don't agree that Yesh Atid has done something nefarious in bringing all this up. The public has demanded reforms in this area for DECADES. Although I don't listen much to the news, I can only recall one instance where a Yesh Atid Knesset member (not Lapid) threw a real epithet at the Haredim, and he was forced to apologize immediately. I can't say that Lapid himself, whatever he may think personally, has not made any incendiary comments, uless you think "I believe that yeshivah bochurs should serve in the IDF too" is such a thing, which is not what I think. I believe it is a very legitimate issue that has been crying out for reform for a long time and this is what the public wants.

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  21. And then there are those who, like Hoffman, believe that Torah= magic. Instead of Torah being G-d's teachings that instruct us on how to act in His world, these people believe that Torah is a magical force that enables us to override all empirical knowledge and rules of nature and to manipulate the will of G-d.

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  22. I've taken c-c off my reading list due to their comments policy.
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  23. I've been following your blog over the past several years and after today I think is safe to say you have lost all objectivity regarding the chareidi world. The blatant animosity you have towards them is unparalleled (perhaps it is on par with some of the non-religious, although you may not believe that they despise the chareidim in which case I guess it's you by yourself). In your mind anything chareidi has a negative association and you cannot even accord them or their supporters the most basic respect. The constant bashing is pathetic and it only makes you look as low as them. Although I am affiliated with the mainstream yeshiva community in the US, I share certain views about the current topic that are not in line with my community. While I am not one to decide whether R' Yakov or R' Moshe is correct I don't think that either one would approve of the chareidi ideology in Israel today. But back to my original critique I will point out one small detail I think almost everyone here missed which I believe qualifies my first statement. If you listen to ran Shachters audio he ends of with the words "ITS NOT SO" but you so are so caught up with anti chareidi diatribe you will automatically interpret them in a negative fashion. Yes, you were not dealt with in a mentchliche way by the chareidi but you're only looking more and more foolish with each posting. Man up and move past it before your blog starts to resemble those blogs that only provide sensational headlines about the unfortunate things that go on within the orthodox community.

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  24. inebriated monikerMarch 16, 2014 at 5:33 PM

    Accepting as read that charedi society is dystopian, the next question is what should the less dystopian members of society do about it. Criminal sanctions for draft dodging makes sense under the principle of equality; but politics is not solely principle based. It's actually terrible politics. It's not even enforceable because so many people have shown their willingness to disobey the civil authorities on this issue.

    Talking about terrible politics - has the choice of candidate for being shemesh been further into the charedi world than Eli Cohen would the outcome have been different? He ran a divisive campaign which scared a lot of the swing vote - the charedi chutznik olim.

    Time for more political maturity amongst the religious Zionist community because the current idealistic approach isn't working.

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  25. You write: "Would Rabbi Hoffman have us believe that he understands Rav Kook's position better than Rav Kook's own son?!"

    I wanted to note that there's a case parallel to this where you would take the other side: Rabbi Moshe Tendler says that his father-in-law, Rav Moshe permitted organ donation. Rav Dovid Feinstein says his father did not. (I assume he would say the teshuva on this topic in the 8th volume of the Igros Moshe, which was published after Rav Moshe's death, is a forgery.) Would people say Rabbi Tendler understands Rav Moshe's position better than Rav Moshe's own son?! Many people would say "Yes!" They would point out that there's a lot of politics around organ donation.

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  26. EZ - I suggest you listen to Rav Schachter's comments again. It may save you the embarrassment of writing another load of nonsense. His words are perfectly clear to any native English speaker,

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  27. Jeremy, there are several differences with the example that you gave, but the most obvious one is that Rav Tendler knew Rav Moshe extremely well. Rabbi Hoffman never met Rav Kook.

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  28. Jeremy Goodwin - can you please explain what you mean? R. Dovid Feinsteinhas repeatedly affirmed that his father maintained that a brain dead person is halachically dead. You can even watch a video of him doing so here:

    https://www.hods.org/english/h-issues/YouTube_video%20pages/RabbiDovidFeinstein.asp

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  29. Chana-
    Yoav Sorek in last weeks' "Shabbat" section of the Makor Rishon newspaper (highly recommended for those who like this "Rationalist" site and who can read Hebrew) discussed the issue you raised. He compared traditional Jewish thinking, which he described as you did, i.e. for making the world better and bringing it to geulah, to the modern Haredi view which he calls "esoteric", i.e. the Torah is disconnected from the world, and so that makes it more holy, the more removed from the world it is, the holier it is.
    The modern TANACH studies are a good example (I am referring to the approach of Rav Amnon Bazak, Rav Yoel Bin-Nun and Rav Yaakov Medan and others of the Gush Etzion Yeshiva and Michlelet Herzog) which is focussed on what actually happened in the stories we read in the TANACH, including archaeological and historical studies in addition to really understanding the pshat. This is to be compared to what is called in the DL world "the Kav" (the party line, as it were) where study of the TANACH is subtly discouraged because we supposedly can't really understand it....when it says one of the giants of Jewish history made a bad mistake, it doesn't really mean that, we have no capability of understanding it due to our low level, etc, etc.

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  30. Criminal sanctions for draft dodging makes sense under the principle of equality; but politics is not solely principle based. It's actually terrible politics. It's not even enforceable because so many people have shown their willingness to disobey the civil authorities on this issue. (Inebriated Moniker)

    Good point, but eventually the issue of inequality will challenge the government and the courts and that leaves only a three options:

    1) Defeat the Hareidi sector by doggedly applying current criminal penalties for draft dodgers without exception until the Hareidi sector eventually submits;

    2) Decriminalize draft dodging for all Israelis and apply severe and consistently enforced financial penalties against draft dodgers...which may lead to further impoverishing an already impoverished sector; or

    3) switch to a smaller, professional army with attractive financial inducements. The downside of a professional army is that the social glue which bound cohorts of young Israeli men and women with shared experiences and challenges (precisely that which the Haredim dislike and fear) will be lost.

    The last is the path of least resistance and in the short term, the most affordable, but Temujin fears the professional army route may take away the highly-motivated qualitative military edge Israel has had with a citizen's army. That's one that's for military experts to work out.

    ...Man up and move past it before your blog starts to resemble those blogs that only provide sensational headlines about the unfortunate things that go on within the orthodox community. (EZ)

    O, for goodness' sake, why don't you "man up" instead of sniveling about your personal disappointments and begging for things to be swept under the carpet. This is a debate over current, crucial and nationally existential issues for all sides and it will by necessity always remain...um, robust,. It's not like the Haredi have been gentle fair, courteous and all brotherly.

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  31. I can't be be bothered to get into a futile discussion with R'Menken on cross currents, so I will publish a response to his latest offering on here. Two things:

    1. According to his ridiculous logic, since everyone sitting in yeshiva gets an automatic exemption, if one day(theoretically) everybody in the country would decide that they want to learn in yeshiva, there would be no army and seemingly, he would be happy with this.....
    2. Even if we are to accept R Moshe's thesis as he reads it, that everybody who is 'osek batorah is exempt, is R'Menken seriously going to claim that everyone in yeshiva is 'osek batorah'. Even the most hardened charedi has to accept that there are simply many in yeshiva who don't do much learning at all(certainly not full sedorim).

    We all know that for many, yeshiva is just an excuse to avoid the draft

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  32. Brooklyn Refugee SheygitzMarch 17, 2014 at 12:58 AM

    I'm pretty sure that some of Rav Yaakov Kamenestsky's grandchildren who live in Israel served on the IDF.

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  33. I've been following your blog for the past several years and after today I think it is safe to say you have finally gained objectivity regarding the charedi world. For too long you were part of that world and accepted their propaganda without questioning it, and now you raise objections while all the "defenders of the charedi faith" can muster is to bash, attack, and slander you while accusing you of their own bad deeds. I think you have gained perspective which allows you to see the emperor's new clothes for what they really are. You better continue this blog in this fashion, before we end up with no self-criticism in our community after it's all been expunged through sob stories and intimidation.

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  34. Joseph said...
    EZ - I suggest you listen to Rav Schachter's comments again. It may save you the embarrassment of writing another load of nonsense. His words are perfectly clear to any native English speaker,


    You missed my point - save your snark for when you understand what someones comment is about. I was referring only to the last 2 words he has in bold "ITS NUTS" - my point was simply that when R' Schachter makes his point he does so in a calm rational manner whereas on this blog there is such a strong anti chareidi sentiment that RNS hears words that have actually not been said. The words ITS NUTS are those spoken by someone who is worked up and is ready to start slinging mud at their opponent and that is what RNS interpreted. R Shachter while sharing the same opinion can do so without letting personal feelings come through. Before you reply with another load of you're nonsense I suggest you figure out what you're responding to.

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  35. Actually, someone else sent me the transcript, and when I listened to it, it certainly sounded accurate. But you are correct, he's actually saying "it's not so." But he says it so quickly, it certainly sounds like "nuts."

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  36. You have many good points.
    However, I would like to make a point regarding this comment of yours. "Second, it stretches credulity to posit that Rambam, in discussing the halachos regarding going to the army in Hilchos Melachim u'Milchamos chapter 7, entirely omitted an extremely significant category of exemption, and simply obliquely hints at it elsewhere",
    The Rambam is any way difficult since he does not mention the exemption of Leviim in Hilchos Milochim either, although he mentions it explicitly in Hilchos Shmita V’yovel. So perhaps if he can rely on his comments regarding Leviim , he can also do so regarding Torah Scholars.

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  37. Y. Ben David--Yes, I read the Sorek article in Makor Rishon. One of the first pieces I've seen in Hebrew elucidating the "Torah=magic" concept.
    I think it's also connected to the polytheistic impulse. Polytheism is attractive because it provides a number of small gods which can be manipulated for our benefit. The "Torah-magic" concept provides one with a deity that is likewise intellectually and mechanically controllable and comprehensible.
    Any way one looks at it, however, it is a diminution of the Divine and an attempt to reduce the Infinite and Unknowable into Harry Potter terms.

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  38. "The Rambam is any way difficult since he does not mention the exemption of Leviim in Hilchos Milochim either, although he mentions it explicitly in Hilchos Shmita V’yovel. So perhaps if he can rely on his comments regarding Leviim , he can also do so regarding Torah Scholars."

    Leviim are only exempt if they have no land, but everybody else does. I.e their exemption is dependant on Yovel. Torah scholars, presumably have no restriction, if they were actually exempt. (Which they are not.)

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  39. Claiming that you believe that "Torah=Chess" is ad hominem. It's what I've heard said about non-Jews or not Shabbat-observant Jews who learn "Talmud".

    It allows the rest of your argument to be dismissed, because you clearly don't believe that the Torah is holy, so no wonder you see nothing wrong with drafting "Torah learners".

    End of argument ...

    Those who perceive this blog as Chareidi-bashing are missing the point. R' Slifkin is looking for "emmes" - rational, consistent thought based on Torah, Chazal, Rishonim, and Acharonim. When Torah is used to justify things that it itself forbids, this is "sheker", and must be fought.

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  40. "based on Torah, Chazal, Rishonim, and Acharonim. When Torah is used to justify things that it itself forbids, this is "sheker", and must be fought."

    Why are the Geonim always left out?

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  41. Picking up on the interesting Y. Ben David and Chana conversation, and after reading the mushy and Saccharine-sweet "anti-Skifkin," Ramat Bet Shemesh and "Million Man" march articles in Cross-Currents, Temujin would like to pipe-in that he too views recent developments in the current dispute with a growing sense of alarm and dismay.

    But stripped from the packaging of Hareidi apologetics, what emerges is a pattern of behaviours and demands which are hardly unique in the world of religions. For what we have here is something fairly rare in Judaism, but quite ordinary in other religions: A sectarian group claiming special, exclusive and divinely ordained status and authority, with an exclusive right to interpret tradition and Scripture. Through the usual means of complicated interpretations and novel apologetics, it claims boundless metaphysical powers, including the ability to metaphysically protect the entire Jewish people and their nation state. This group demands respect, obedience, special privileges, immunity from criticism or even inquiry and...not to be taken lightly...to be financially supported with minimal conditions and to receive special exemptions from duties and responsibilities applicable to all other Jews. In addition, the structural and functional set-up of the group, such as where personal decisions must be approved by the leadership and where the majority has been placed in total financial dependency on it, strongly remind one of a cult. Let's not forget too the protective mechanism of blocking even the mildest expressions of criticism and the most polite attempts at scrutiny by interpreting such as gross attacks against the core religion, if not God Himself.

    Seen from a simple historical perspective, it seems to Temujin that this situation represents a major and radical departure from the normative Rabbinic Judaism which has sustained Jewry since the destruction of the Second Temple to the present.

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  42. I don't see the point of quoting an unreliable psak from a story that was heard in the name of reb elyashiv. As far as psak halachha here. As I've already demonstrated, that reb moshe held bnay hayishiva are exempt from military service. It is common knowledge that the chazon ish,brisker rav,and reb elyashiv agreed with this position. So when it comes to this issue I don't think the chraidim are obligated defer to rabbi shechter or to some mizrchi rabonim.

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  43. Comment that I'm not sure will ever get approved over there:

    The Teshuvah of Reb Moshe zt”l referenced by R’ Yair Hoffman is clear and unambiguous.

    Rabbi Menken, the Teshuva is clear and unambiguous, but does not address the question at hand. 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.

    All of this is beside the fact that there was no claim that all Poskim agreed, only that there are those Poskim who feel that everyone, including Yeshivah students, should participate in military service. Therefore, this is not a secular vs. Torah issue as some would like to portray it, but a subject of debate within the Torah community itself with many Poskim on diametrically opposite sides of the issue. And some of those, such as Rav Aviner, object to forcing the issue, but agree that the truth is with those who support universal service. One can only achieve a consensus of "Gedolim" through a definition of Gadol which assumes the desired conclusion.

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  44. With no intent to insult anyone, I find this whole discussion on whether Torah-learning protects anyone totally inane.

    One can point to a dozen sources stating that this claim is true, but I'll simply point to Jewish history and you tell what a rational person should believe.

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  45. Joseph - I had attended a shiur where the Rabbi said Rav Dovid Feinstein said the teshuva about organ donation in the Igros Moshe wasn't authentic. I wasn't familiar with the video. Thanks for pointing it out to me.

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  46. A bit of a strawman argument there, Elimir. The issue is not whether the Torah and Torah adherence and learning protect, but whether this protection can come about only through Hareidi yeshivot housing tens of thousands of men employed to learn full-time on the state's dole and with exemptions from civic responsibilities.

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  47. "The Rambam is any way difficult since he does not mention the exemption of Leviim in Hilchos Milochim either, although he mentions it explicitly in Hilchos Shmita V’yovel. So perhaps if he can rely on his comments regarding Leviim , he can also do so regarding Torah Scholars."

    I was going to point that out but you beat me to it. But once it has been pointed out, it should be noted that regarding leviim the Rambam specifically mentions a military exemption, whereas by the people who can make themselves like Leviim all the Rambam says is הרי זה נתקדש קדש קדשים ויהיה י"י חלקו ונחלתו לעולם ולעולמי עולמים ויזכה לו בעה"ז דבר המספיק לו כמו שזכה לכהנים ללוים.

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  48. Let's face it, rabbi shachter and some of the mizrachi rabonim are not in the same league as either reb moshe, brisker rav, chazon ish or reb elyashiv. So why would ant RATIONLAl thinking chareidy say to himself "you know what,who cares what all these gidolim say? we have rabbi shachter who supports joining the army".

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  49. David ohsie, reb moshe does not imply in his teshuva at all that his "ptur" HINGES on the fact that the government recognizes the value of tora. all he says is "it seems that the government also recognizes this".that's all. It does not say "since the government agrees...therefore it is permitted.

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  50. Brooklyn Refugee SheygitzMarch 17, 2014 at 6:44 PM

    I'm also pretty sure that Rav Moshe Feinstein's grandchildren in Israel have served in the IDF

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  51. rt said...
    David ohsie, reb moshe does not imply in his teshuva at all that his "ptur" HINGES on the fact that the government recognizes the value of tora. all he says is "it seems that the government also recognizes this".that's all. It does not say "since the government agrees...therefore it is permitted.


    I a making no claims as to what Rav Moshe "would say" with regard to today's dispute. I'm pointing out that the question he was addressing was whether the propriety of taking advantage of an existing exemption for Torah learning. He also did not say "it is better for everyone 18-21 to learn rather than serving" or that "changes to the status quo are attacks on Torah". He also doesn't say that learning protects the nation, nor does he even address someone that wants to learn, but no become a Posek, not does he address evading the draft.

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  52. oh mighty Kahn, you are of course correct, but it is far from being a strawman as my set subsumes the issue at hand and i since i believe my contention correct, the issue at hand is moot.

    PS why do you keep misspelling my name?? It is my given name, as per my birth certificate and passport.

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  53. Dearest Elemir, sincere apypolylogies for misspelling your certified name; at fault was simple inattention to an evidently important detail and no insult...or subsumption...was intended.

    As for your, "my set subsumes the issue at hand and i since i believe my contention correct, the issue at hand is moot", a re-wording or an explanation would be of tremendous help.

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  54. Posted on CC- It will be interesting to see if it passes moderation:

    R' Menken-

    My fourth son just started the army this week..second in the paratroops (tzanchanim).
    He left the house Sunday morning with a backpack laden with seforim, and a sandwich to eat for purim seuda on the train to his base.

    Simple question.
    Will you be saying the mi-sheberach for chayalei Tzahal this shabbat?

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    Replies
    1. Man, I wish this moved them, but it seems the most it generally does is make them feel vaguely guilty, and then nasty. Can't see a realistic possibility for אחדות here, no.

      Delete
  55. .....or an explanation would be of tremendous help.

    What I meant is simply that based on observation (and historical data), there is no evidence to support the contention that anybody's Torah learning saves lives, so that includes the most dedicated Yirei shomeim learning.

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  56. Mrs Chana Rachel, probably your son thought nothing special of his trip; an ordinary situation for him and his comrades. But the image of a young combat soldier on a train to his base with his mom's sandwich for his Purim seuda will, God-willing, return to this man with the clarity of a cold glass of water on every Purim to the end of his days. Thank you.

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  57. Well, there you go, Elemir, your post was way above one's reading level and one thought you meant the opposite.

    Without getting into the theology and keeping things to the very minimal and mundane, if you prefer, Temujin would propose that Torah learning has, throughout Jewish history and especially in the past three centuries, definitely saved thousands of Jewish lives in ways we tend dismiss. In times when Jews were pushed out of the crafts and professions and the towns and their streets were unsafe, the evolved custom of keeping young men studying in a common edifice saved resources and calories, bound them to their communities, maintained their sense of connection and peoplehood and kept most from conflict among themselves and their deadly enemies outside. Alas, as a survival strategy, this practice doesn't appear to work too well in modern Israel.

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  58. Chana Rachel: May he go in peace, serve with honor and meaning, and return in peace.

    May he not be harmed, in body, mind, or soul.

    May your family celebrate many Purim Seudas in the future, in full complement and good health.

    (from a mother of soldiers in Hesder)

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  59. David ohishe, true reb moshe does not say that torah protects all. In fact we see from that gimara that the rest of the population must contribute militarily. However, that does not change the fact that rabbis (without getting into precise definition) are not in need of the IDF. However,while it may be true that learning tora ALONE will not protect others, does not at all imply that the IDF going at it alone without the aid of the tora study will suffice. In other words there other other sources in shas that tora has the power of protection. Therefore, who is to say a nation the size of new jersey would have been able to survive so miraculously against all odds during the past 70 years without tora. As far as what the definition of a "scolar" regarding these matters are, although it's not clear from reb Moshe's loshon,I think you and I know that the overwhelming majority of the gidolay haposkim including the chazon ish, brisker rav, reb elyashiv reb chaim kanievsky are all pretty much on one side here. Now as far as the amount of yeshiva boys (assuming they qualify),if tora can protect one I don't see why it cannot thousands. As far as the draft-that's a political discussion.

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  60. R' Hoffman's chart was so ridiculous it doesn't deserve a response, but I wrote one anyway with an alternate chart http://jewishworker.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/is-there-causality-between-number-of.html

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  61. David ohishe, true reb moshe does not say that torah protects all. In fact we see from that gimara that the rest of the population must contribute militarily. However, that does not change the fact that rabbis (without getting into precise definition) are not in need of the IDF.

    They are not in need of watchmen for the city. Almost certainly, they need the IDF.

    However,while it may be true that learning tora ALONE will not protect others, does not at all imply that the IDF going at it alone without the aid of the tora study will suffice. In other words there other other sources in shas that tora has the power of protection. Therefore, who is to say a nation the size of new jersey would have been able to survive so miraculously against all odds during the past 70 years without tora.

    I don't disagree. Moreover, even if no protection was provided, there is little point in having a Jewish homeland if the citizens then completely abandon key elements of Judaism. However, as others have pointed out, "efshar l'kayem sh'neihem" without a blanket exemption.

    As far as what the definition of a "scolar" regarding these matters are, although it's not clear from reb Moshe's loshon,I think you and I know that the overwhelming majority of the gidolay haposkim including the chazon ish, brisker rav, reb elyashiv reb chaim kanievsky are all pretty much on one side here.


    Again, this relies on the specific definition of Gadol which excludes everyone but those most to the right. Also, if this is a "judgement" rather than a true "p'sak", then it is open to debate among those with a more restricted view of "Daas Torah".

    Now as far as the amount of yeshiva boys (assuming they qualify),if tora can protect one I don't see why it cannot thousands.
    Thousands of draft age are still exempted besides the many more thousands not of draft age.

    As far as the draft-that's a political discussion.

    Agreed. It should be a matter of rational public debate, ideally without either holocaust imagery or anti-religious polemic.

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  62. " the evolved custom of keeping young men studying in a common edifice ...."

    ah, but the question is : is it what they studied or simply the fact that they studied"

    forgive my heresy, but they would have done better improving their many life skills, their knowledge in more than baba kamma, and maybe even training to physically protect themselves.

    and yes I firmly believe that our survival is attributable to Torah, but more than just studying it.

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  63. @Elimir:

    ...ah, but the question is : is it what they studied or simply the fact that they studied"

    One can reasonably speculate that given the dismal state of learning and high percentages of illiteracy among non-Jews, simple literacy, even in a foreign language, "maintained the systems" well enough to engage when opportunities arose. Also, there is reason to believe that mathematics were taught fairly regularly, if for no other reason than the ability to tinker with kabbalah and gematria and to analyze patterns in texts and such. These would be, as human resources types nowadays would say, "transferable skills."

    ...forgive my heresy, but they would have done better improving their many life skills...

    Not a heresy; a reasonable hypothesis that appears to have been tested by the contemporaries, but found wanting. Remember; there wasn't such a big gulf between practical thought and theology we see today, at least not philosophically. Another thing to remember is that with the first enfranchisement of European Jewry after the French Revolution and with the march of Napoleon's armies, Jewish economic and intellectual life exploded among impoverished and seemingly ignorant Jews. The time frame and the force behind this "explosion" is downright miraculous, so yes, their education, such as it was, did serve them well.

    ...maybe even training to physically protect themselves.

    Sheer suicide. Communities that tried this were simply eradicated in the most brutal and total ways. The history of the destruction of the Rhineland communities during the Crusades and the disastrous self-defense attempts in medieval Spain would have been remembered. Every single attempt at civic self-defense failed with horrid results. A much more successful strategy was to make alliances through stadtlans and hofjuden with the king, nobility and the Church, even the peasantry when possible, by being financially useful as revenue-gatherers and money lenders. Didn't always work, but also didn't lead to slaughter every single time as would have been the case had taken a modern Jabotinsky-type approach. One is tempted to believe that if we could go back in time and advise folks to act differently, things would have turned out better. Yes, in very few and limited circumstances, but mostly no; we're no smarter now than people then, and they knew their times better than we do.

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  64. Great article.
    Though I assume you likely meant this,it may be helpful to clarify "against the RELATIVELY small importance of helping England". I wouldn't want someone to misinterpret your statement as not valuing our patriotic duty to our non-Jewish host countries

    Thanks, Eli

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  65. Thank you Kira and Temujin for your kind words. May all our chayyalim return safely!

    Just posted on CC:

    I understand that my comment regarding the mi sheberach for chayalei tzahal was not accepted for publication.

    Maybe this assumption is incorrect, but if you chose not to publish my comment, I assume that you do not say the mi-sheberach.

    Which leads to an absurd situation-- us datiim believe in the value and protection afforded by the tefillot of those who learn, but you don't believe that your own tefillot are efficacious (or necessary).

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