Sunday, December 13, 2015

Merits, Not Masechtos

“Should the chareidim serve in [Israel’s] military, or at least serve in some other capacity such as recognized public service commensurate with military service?”

This was the question posed by a journalist to Rabbi Avi Shafran, media liaison for Agudath Israel of America. His reply was that "in the view of chareidim, they are already doing so." As he explains, "a religious Jew sincerely believes that his or her life, based as it is on religious observance, charity and Torah-study, helps ensure the security of Jews."

Rabbi Shafran continues to elaborate how many major world events are shaped not by raw military power, but rather by unexpected events and freak occurrences which mask Divine providence. He concludes: "Divine providence is at work in the world; and spiritual merits, not superior munitions, are what matter in the end."

Superficially, this seems like a solid religious argument. However, on closer inspection, it falls apart.

From a traditional Jewish perspective, it is indeed divine providence that determines the security of the Jewish People. And from a traditional Jewish perspective, such providence is indeed contingent upon spiritual merits. However, Rabbi Shafran's error is to assume that masechtos (Talmudic tractates) equal merits. This is strongly rooted in a non-rationalist worldview, in which Torah study and mitzvos have a mechanistic function of manipulating spiritual energies. Both the rationalist and the classical Jewish perspective, on the other hand, is that merits are solely a result of following God's will as determined by the Torah.

On Tisha B'Av, for example, the proper activity is to mourn for the loss of the Beis HaMikdash, and that is how one accrues merits. It does no good to learn Bava Metzia on Tishah B'Av - that is not what God wants on that day. Likewise, Rav Steinman noted that it is wrong to learn Torah if one's wife needs help. Learning Torah does not automatically accrue merits. It only accrues merits if it is the right thing to do.

The question, then, is not "are the charedim learning Torah, giving charity, and being otherwise religiously observant" - it is "are the charedim doing Hashem's will, as determined by the Torah, in avoiding army service?" And the answer to that is clearly a resounding no.

From a halachic standpoint, as we have explained on many occasions, there is simply no exemption in a milchemes mitzvah for Torah students. There are clear exemptions for a newlywed, or someone with a new house or new vineyard, in the case of a milchemes reshus (but not a milchemes mitzvah), yet no exemption is presented for Torah students.

From a historical standpoint, Torah study was never presented as an optional alternative to military service. When the tribes of Gad and Reuven wanted to stay on the other side of the Jordan, Moses did not tell them that that would be satisfactory if they learn Torah. Not even the tribe of Levi was exempt from army service. There is a Midrash which says that a thousand people from each tribe had the job of praying, but this was praying, not learning, and it was done on the front lines. Likewise, the Netziv says that some Torah scholars were exempt from military service, but he notes that to make up for this, they had to pay higher taxes, perform national service, and pray on the front lines.

From a hashkafic standpoint, the idea that Torah scholars provide some degree of protection has some support, but the idea that the Torah study of a yeshivah student provides equivalent protective service to that of a soldier has no basis. Furthermore, charedim are never interested in discussing the hashkafos of the nature and parameters of the protection that they claim their Torah provides.

Finally, from a realistic standpoint, we have noted that there is no empirical reason to believe that charedi yeshivah students actually have any protective benefits. Furthermore, when push comes to shove, charedim themselves certainly don't act as though they believe that their Torah study is producing tangible protective benefits. When danger threatens, charedi yeshivah students flee, demand IDF protection, or learn to use guns. They never believe that their Torah study provides any practical benefits, either in the realm of security or in the realm of removing the yoke of worldly affairs, other than enabling them to avoid army service.

So please, Rabbi Shafran, save us your spin. As all perceptive observers know, the reason why charedim do not serve in the IDF has nothing to do with an alleged belief that their Torah allegedly provides significant protection. Rather, the reason is that they fear the threat that army service would pose to their way of life. Rabbi Shafran is supposed to be representing the views of the Agudah Moetzes, but the only Moetzes member to discuss this topic, Rav Aharon Feldman, explicitly wrote that the reason charedim avoid army service is because they are afraid of the effect that it would have on their youth. Even Mishpachah magazine recently quoted Rabbi Betzalel Cohen as saying “For years the chareidi establishment stated the reason for not going to the army is because of limud Torah. But the real reason is that they want the boys to remain frum.” This is understandable, but there are also the factors of the halachos of milchemes mitzvah and sharing the burden of national responsibilities. Given their disinterest in those, I doubt that their masechtos earn many merits.

124 comments:

  1. מלחמת מצוה!!??

    פיקוח נפש כן אבל להגדרת מלחמת מצוה יש קריטריונים ברורים.

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    1. Yes. One of the criteria of Milchemet Mitzvah is defense. Look it up.

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    2. Moe, can you cite a criterion which is not met?

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    3. Well for one there is no Melech Yisroel thats a requirement

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    4. So neither Yehoshua nor any of the Shoftim fought a milchemet mitzvah?

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    5. בדף יומי השבוע סוטה מד, מפורש שרק כיבוש הארץ ולא מלחמה של פיקוח נפש על כל פנים לשיטת רבנן שחולקים על רבי יהודה והלכה כמותם וזה כמו שוטרים שלולי הם היינו בסכנה אבל
      לכלל מלחמת מצוה לא הגיע.

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  2. Interesting reply by R' Shafran. Was he speaking as a private citizen or as representative of the US Agudah. If the latter I would have thought the correct response to be: "This is a matter to be decided by the leaders of the Agudah in (Eretz) Israel.
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  3. Can Rabbi Safran explain why in most Chareidi congregations in Israel and America the Tefila lTzahal is not said? Is it bitul zman from learning?

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  4. "are the charedim doing Hashem's will, as determined by the Torah, in avoiding army service?" And the answer to that is clearly a resounding no.

    Glad to see you know Hashem's will.

    Not sure if this is tone or approach, but anybody with even a small amount of humility would not claim to know Hashem's will.

    The best you can say is "based on my understanding of the sources I have brought the answer in no"


    But the very fact that for many many years now with the aproval of their Rabbonim, chareidim have not served in the army must mean something, for if they are not prophets they are the sons of prophets.

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  5. Just to take a different tack, what would you say about the following:

    1) Assume that the Chareidim, at this time, are not going to serve, even if compelled. They will simply become resistors.

    2) Set aside all the fairness issues because they are not going to be resolved (pace #1).

    3) Assume further that there are is *today* no real manpower crisis in the IDF. (In fact if you had full Charedi participation, then you might have an over-participation issue).

    If so, the real goals are to

    a) avoid an economic crisis as workplace participation rates fall.

    b) a possible later IDF manpower issue as the current cohort of Chareidi children grow.

    c) enable a significant reserve force in case of a real crisis.

    If so perhaps these kinds of policies would help:

    i) Get rid of all barriers to workforce participation for non-IDF participants who learn for 3 years after high school.

    ii) Create a reserve-only participation for the IDF. This would have to involve the cooperation of the Charedi authorities. It would depend on the notion that they are credited for their their learning, but they still need to be trained as a reserve force in case of a real crisis. There is not attempt in this to integrate them into society. (I understand that this might fail just as much as Nachal Charedi has).

    These ideas are probably not new and probably won't work "as is", but I think that as long as fairness insisted upon, movement is going to be next to impossible.

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    1. You are absolutely correct - from a practical standpoint, that would be the most reasonable plan. The problem is that it's very hard to sell to many people the idea that due to practicality, the fairness issue is simply going to be ignored.

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    2. Maybe if hareidim joined the military then everyone would be obligated to serve less time, say 2 years instead of 3.

      Ted

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    3. You don't seem to get it. They don't want to cooperate with the IDF, period, reserve force or no.

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    4. @R. Slifkin: The American embargo on Cuba is finally falling. At some point people realize that they aren't going to get a "fair" solution. OTOH, we have "n" generations of Palestinian refugees, so maybe I'm wrong.

      @Ted: Yes, but there is an efficiency issue. I presume, as with all fields, that it takes time to become a good soldier in any specialty. At number of draftees you have eliminate the universal draft. The Charedi non-participation is helping to avoid that day of reckoning. (Although eliminating the draft may eventually be the better solution).

      @Nachum: I get it (at least in part) and that is why I said that it could fail just as Nachal Charedi has. But perhaps a different model that could be grown from the inside with cooperation from the outside could work. Especially now with "home-made" terrorism becoming more widespread, the impetus to have everyone be capable of defense may provide an opening. But I agree that this is a just a notion and not a solution.

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  6. "the reason why charedim do not serve in the IDF has nothing to do with an alleged belief that their Torah allegedly provides significant protection."

    Perhaps both are true: the negative of army life is "sur merah", while Torah learning is the positive side, in general, as far as Jewish continuity(compare to R. Aharon Kotler's Kolell model, besides the hora'as shah of post-Holocaust rebuilding, there are the above two aspects), and this positive reason is used to counter "shivyon b'netel". The question is which reason is the stronger, "real reason"(see the post "Two Reasons", 11/22/09, on this website).

    Mishpacha(6/12/13) had the following regarding the "real reason":

    “For years the chareidi establishment stated the reason for not going to the army is because of limud Torah. But the real reason is that they want the boys to remain frum,” Rabbi Betzalel Cohen, founder of Shachar, told Mishpacha. “We’re not talking about an ideology of Torah as much as an ideology of Yiddishkeit. Of course, for an 18-year old we’re talking about Torah — how can you take an 18-year-old out of yeshivah? It’s unconscionable, even for those who aren’t the biggest learners. But for 21-year-olds who aren’t so into the full-time learning anymore? Then we’re talking about basic Yiddishkeit. There is a real fear — not unjustified — that all the screaming of ‘shivyon banetel’ [sharing the burden] is really ‘stop being chareidi.’ People are looking at the army through Israel’s history and Ben-Gurion’s ‘melting pot’ agenda. Statistically, going into the army chareidi means you might not come out that way.”

    R. Aharon Feldman wrote similarly("Wake Up!", Cross Currents, 7/4/13):

    "You don’t need to be a general to understand that a general cannot issue a command to march tomorrow, call up the commander of the Charedi unit, and have the other say “wait a minute, tomorrow is Sukkos, I have to ask my Rav if we’re allowed to march.” You can’t run an Army in that fashion, and the Army itself says so."

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    1. "“For years the chareidi establishment stated the reason for not going to the army is because of limud Torah. But the real reason is that they want the boys to remain frum,”

      Great quote!

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    2. I added it to the post, along with the following observation: Rabbi Shafran is supposed to be representing the views of the Agudah Moetzes, but the only Moetzes member to discuss this topic, Rav Aharon Feldman, explicitly wrote that the reason charedim avoid army service is because they are afraid of the effect that it would have on their youth.

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    3. I would add that both R. Feldman in the above article("Learning Torah ensures the survival of the Jewish people; it has done so for thousands of years") as well as the Moetzes in a 2/20/13 statement("The perseverance and security of Hashem’s people are rooted in its dedication to Torah study, as Chazal comment on the posuk “Our feet were standing at your gates, Yerushalayim...”) have mentioned the protective aspect of Torah. The question is which reason is the "real reason".

      Regarding kolell life, compare, "don't go to college, or even work because it might negatively affect you", versus the positives of Torah. The "real reason" might be the negative of contemporary society, as seen by the fact that historically people worked, but it's hard to build a philosophy of life on negatives(in addition to the communal need to rebuild Torah).

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    4. These are not valid arguments.

      Do Haredi doctors keep a rabbi at their side on shabbat and ask what to do every time they treat a patient? Do haredi businessmen call their rabbis before every transaction? Of course not. They figure out beforehand what they can and can't do, and then act accordingly. The same holds true for army service.

      You don't get to turn your back on institutions, and then complain that they don't reflect your values and lifestyle. When you participate, you become a stakeholder, your views are valued and your needs are accommodated.

      If haredi leaders were to approach the army and say that they would send their 18-year-olds en masse for army service, it would take about two weeks for both sides to figure out ways to deal with haredi requirements.

      I should add: in training, it is all well and good to say "Not on yom tov." Actual combat happens when it happens. And the Torah provides for that.

      Obviously, when Haredim who serve are isolated because the others won't serve it is not going to help them remain observant. It also doesn't help when they are reviled and even physically assaulted by other haredim.

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  7. I wonder, with what kavanah rationalists say in the morning (if they do of course) "These are the things which man performs and enjoys their fruits in this world, while the principal remains for him for the world to come, ....while the study of the Torah surpasses them all" and Tehillim 20 אֵלֶּה בָרֶכֶב וְאֵלֶּה בַסּוּסִים וַאֲנַחְנוּ | בְּשֵׁם יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ נַזְכִּיר: ?

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    1. 1. See http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2013/09/kneged-kulam.html

      2. What kavanah do YOU have in that pasuk? That we don't need an army?!

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    2. Army is needed, but we need to set priorities. As the Torah states, if the nation obeys G-d, its enemies would fear Israel and would not dare attacking. So, what's a more important task worth efforts: to have a few thousand kollel students quit studying and go to army, or work with the majority of secular Israelis to have them stop desecrating Torah?

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    3. Lazar, instead of snide remarks about 'rationalists' try analyzing your citations. The first states that talmud torah is superior to other mitzvoth - not a negation of other mitzvoth and obligations. Defense of one's kin and country - particularly in Israel is both an overriding mitzvah and a serious obligation. Your 2nd citation refers obviously to prayer rather than torah study. In fact, a Jewish army should avail themselves of prayer in addition to force of arms - just as the Maccabees did in their time.

      Y. Aharon

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    4. @Lazar "As the Torah states, if the nation obeys G-d, its enemies would fear Israel and would not dare attacking."

      Setting aside that this means that they would fear our army, we've never actually reached such a level in our history, and as believers in Yeridas HaDoros, the Chareidim cannot believe that we are at that level today.

      Besides the obvious fact that even the most dedicated learners spend time to eat, sleep, dress, bathe, show affection to their family, besides activities need to remain sane such sports, games, political discussion, etc. that 99% of Torah learners engage in. And outside of the modern shtetl communities, Torah goes along with some secular education and actually earning a living.

      Torah learning is always done alongside all the other essentials of life, so you can't tell whether army service is to be done just by saying "Torah is the most important". If army service is essential, then it is done alongside Torah.

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    5. Not to mention that plenty of people not on active duty would still be learning.

      "or work with the majority of secular Israelis to have them stop desecrating Torah?"

      Please tell me what steps the charedi world is taking in that direction.

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    6. @Nachum,
      "or work with the majority of secular Israelis to have them stop desecrating Torah?"

      Please tell me what steps the charedi world is taking in that direction.

      I am referring to those, whose main efforts are to have Charedim serve rather than to increase Torah observance of majority of population.

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    7. And maybe the majority of the population would find Torah observance more endearing if its adherents helped them out a little more.

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    8. The passage you quote says that the study of Torah is supreme among the things on that list, i.e., mitzvot for which there is a this-worldly reward. It says nothing about studying Torah exclusively.

      I agree that the Haredim have a responsibility to increase the Torah observance of the majority of the population. Unfortunately that is a responsibility they are doing little to serve.

      The existence of the State of Israel is a golden opportunity to demonstrate to the majority of Jews, who are not observant, how wonderful observance is.

      Instead, what do you think it says to the majority of the population that observant people are content to deliberately shirk paid work, fail to contribute toward the common defense, and live off the tax dollars of those who do?

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  8. Avi Shafran should put his money where his mouth is and go re-establish the historic yeshiva in Pumbeditha, more recently known as Fallujah, Iraq.

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    1. The RY in pumpeditha was not (usually) a hereditary position. Would not work in today's business model.

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  9. Torah "scholarship" as national service "contribution" should be available only to elite students who meet recognized standards of scholarship and contribution. Torah study in and of itself is a self-indulgence. Collecting existing knowledge in ones own head is not national service. It is self-improvement. It should not exempt a person from national service any more than reading the newspaper each day or learning the piano. But those who innovate or deepen our understanding or who improve the country or the Jewish people as a whole through their study by making clear, documented, public and measurable contributions, they, like any elite academic, athletic, musical, or other professional should be considered to be excused from assigned military service so that they may continue using their gifts to contribute to the nation. All the other Charedi deadbeats should practice their hobby in their own time.

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  10. I actually came here hoping you'd have a response to this piece. And you made it in a much more organized and polite manner than I would have. I still wonder if this propaganda is actually *believed*, but there's another point I want to make:

    Once again, I think you're letting them off too easy in your explanation of the "real reason." While fear about kids is certainly one of them (although they don't like saying that out loud, because it implies their educational system is weak), it seems clear to me that the main reason is that the IDF is part of the State, and the State is treyf, either because Zionism is, or anything not charedi is, or both. Simple as that.

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    1. I agree with you but I think you're letting charedim off lightly too!

      Yes - the State is treif but it's more than that. The charedi position is one of selfishness and a refusal to participate in the norms of citizenship including paying taxes etc. The army is one (very significant) aspect of a much broader problem and any excuses such as 'Torah protects us' are sheer nonsense.

      The charedim don't participate because they don't care.

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    2. @Nachum, the "Zionist" Chasidim such as Ger engage (or used to engage?) in national service. So your explanation is a part, but is not (or was not?) universal.

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    3. In my experience as a bochur in a charedi yeshiva, the majority of charedim are actually extremely supportive of the army, and greatly respect the soldiers, but only subconsciously. They tend to speak with pride of the idf s achievements, and definately want there to be as many (non chareidi) soldiers as possible. It is only when the issue of conscription comes up that anti zionistic views are heard and the army is vilified.
      In other words the lack of support by charedim for the memshalah is used more as an excuse than as a reason not to join the army.
      I agree you may be right for a sizable minority of charedim, but definately not the majority.
      The real reason is without doubt the impact army service would have on both their life and lifestyle, as well as the fact that army service is stigmatised for historocultural reasons even when charedim admit it is the correct choice in a given situation. How best to deal with this is the much more difficult question.

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    4. This stance genuinely angers me. I'm aware that this next comment will sound flippant but behind it lies a serious question... ' Can someone please explain to me what, if any, is the actual value of Torah learning? If it doesn't protect you from rockets, if it doesn't give you the moral or religious conviction to live within society - as other religions do - (not to mention giving you the tools to improve society) , AND (given what we read daily on Haemtza and Failed Messiah) if it seems to have a deleterious moral effect, then honestly, why do it?'

      Yours thinking-about-leavingly,

      Fozzie

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    5. But Fozzie! Torah learning helps accomplish all those things if that's what YOU set out to do. Sadly, Torah learning also helps the shady become even shadier, if that's what they set out to do. That's why derech eretz as a prerequisite is a must. Reb Harry didn't leave, Rav Slifkin didn't leave and I hope you won't either. Be one of the few who get it right, Lord knows we need you.

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    6. fozzie,
      fm focuses on the derelicts of society. every group has them, they are the statistical outliers. the majority of the frum population are good people. anyways, i stopped reading fm after he did a hit piece on a complete mensch that i know personally. focusing on the negatives makes one myopic and then one can miss out on all the amazing bits. :)

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  11. See my post here http://jewishworker.blogspot.com/2015/12/a-litvisher-father-tries-to-explain.html
    Its very relevant to the Charedi mindset

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  12. Chareidim in Israel and chareidim in America are two distinct entities and should be treated as such any generalizations.

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    1. Moshe Dick writes:
      The extent to which the chareidim go now to evade their responsibilities is breath taking. I do not remember these arguments being made years ago. In those far away days,the argument relied upon the need to develop new religious leaders- a la Chazon Ish. That,of course, lost its reason many moons ago, as today, every Moshe,Chaim and Avrohom is learning forever. Then, the argument was made -as it is still done today- that it would make every yeshiva boy secular if, G-d forbid, he enters the Army. That, of course, is patently false and has been disproved as the hundreds of thousands of DL people prove every day.So,-false- patriotism being the last refuge of the scoundrel they now parade the charade that they too are part of that army. Of course, at the first sign of danger,they run for cover by either fleeing or hiding behind the Army. Enough of that charade!

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  14. Hello Rabbi Slifkin i recently -Parshas Vayishlach- came across a fascinating article by you 'The Other Jewish Hawking' i have some questions and comments on it how can i send them to you

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  15. Even if I agree - cleanliness begins in the home. Until intense pressure is put by Religious Zionists - including this blogmaster - on the Rashei Yeshiva of Mercaz Harav, Har Hamor, Beit El, etc. to start instructing all their students to pull their weight instead of serving in their ridiculously diminished capacities, or to shut down their institutions, the gist of this post is hypocrisy at its nadir.

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  16. I must say I was baffled by the Cross-Currents piece. He states that Rommel was miraculously away from Normandy on D-Day. Similarly, the Egyptians miraculously were unprepared for the Israeli pre-emptive air strike. I might add that the authoritative book on the great American naval victory over Japan in the Battle of Midway by Gordon Prange is titled "Miracle at Midway". American commander Admiral Chester Nimitz himself admitted that it could have easily gone the other way and that the Americans had a lot of luck working in their favor. Add to that the famous maxim "there are no atheists in foxholes".
    So my question is "what is the point" of the article? That there is no need for soldiers? The fact is that Rommel's being away wouldn't have meant anything if thousands of well-trained Allied troops hadn't hit the beaches in 6 June 1944. The Germans wouldn't have simply run away. Same with the Israel pilots and their excellent ground crews working around the clock to make sure the aircraft were airworthy. So, again, what is the point of the article? That if we have frum people around we don't need an army at all? That there is some sort of contradiction between military preparedness and religious faith? Where did the famous expression "Praise the L-rd and pass the ammunition" come from if people didn't think the two go together?

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    1. > Add to that the famous maxim "there are no atheists in foxholes".

      http://militaryatheists.org/atheists-in-foxholes/
      It seems that there are plenty of atheists in foxholes. While I agree with the overall thrust of your comment, that particular phrase is insulting. It implies that atheists don't have real conviction in their areligious views, and will go running to the nearest deity as soon as they're in a scary situation.

      > Where did the famous expression "Praise the L-rd and pass the ammunition" come from

      It was an off-the-cuff remark by a Navy chaplain to group of sailors passing shells from the ammunition bunker to the antiaircraft guns aboard a destroyer at Pearl Harbor.

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    2. Maybe you took what I said too literally, I certainly never thought that every single soldier in combat has a religious awakening, but it is a fact that after the Second World War in the US, there was a significant increase in church attendance. Maybe it had to do with the fact that a lot of Americans say war up close. I also read an article by a fellow who attended Catholic day school in the 1960's. He said many if not most of the priests who taught there had been soldiers who fought in WW2 and their experiences there sent them into the priesthood.
      For that matter, Stalin eased up his restrictions on organized religion during the war, feeling it would help the war effort.

      On the other hand, I don't think this is what happened in Western Europe, although I don't have any figures, but it seems that organized religion has become more and more discredited there in the decades following the war.

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    3. I wish that I had it in front of me to quote directly, but Primo Levi made a few interesting observations here:

      1) Those who had an ideology of any type had an easier time psychologically in the camps because they had a way to make sense of the senseless. The ideology could religion or anything else. He mentions that after the war he discussed with a fellow survivor how they has barely survived and his companion responded "Mais Joseph!". It took him some time to realize that he was referring to Stalin as his rock and redeemer.

      2) He was an atheist confirmed in his atheism by the camps. But he mentions that one time he was tempted to pray. He did not because he thought the prayer absurd (by what right could he, a non-believer, ask for anything) and that it would thus be a sacrilegious act that he would be ashamed of later.

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  17. The Haredi spokesmen said very clearly during the acrimonious debate on IDF conscription a couple of years ago that their young people will stop being religious if they ever leave the confines of their Haredi community. This is a clear admission that they believe the only way a young person will remain religious (according to their criteria for this) is by external coercion and that their educational system in incapable in instilling any real degree of voluntary commitment to their religious ideology.

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  18. A few sources that never get mentioned in these discussions:

    אגרות משה חו"מ חלק ב סימן עח
    בענין מלחמת מצווה
    כ"ה תשרי תשל"ט
    מע"כ ידידי הרב הגאון מוהר"ר נחום טרעבניק שליט"א אב"ד ור"מ בכפר חב"ד א"י
    הנה כמדומני שידוע דרכי לכתר"ה אשר איני ממהר להשיב אף להשואלים אותי ולדברים שלא נשאלתי לא שייך כלל שאשיב אף שהיה זה שאלה פרטית בדיני איסור והיתר וכל תשובותי אף להשואלים אותי היו רק בענינים פרטיים שנוגע להיחיד ששאל אותי ודוקא כשלא היתה פגיעה לאיזה רב ושאלה כללית לא השבתי מעולם לא בכתב ולא בעל פה ואולי שמעו ממני מה שאמרתי לתלמידי מה שאני סובר שענין מלחמה כיון שנוגע לפקוח נפש צריך ציוי מיוחד ואורים ותומים וסנהדרין אף במלחמת מצוה כמלחמת עמלק ומוכרח זה מהא דדוד ושלמה וכל מלכים הצדיקים לא יצאו להלחם בעמלק וזה דבר ברור ומוכרח שלא שייך לפלוג ע"ז ורק כשנפלו העכו"ם על ישראל כהא דאנטיוכוס מלך יון וכדומה דהוא להצלה עשו מלחמה בבית שני ולא דנתי כלום אף לא במחשבה איך להכריע כי לא שייך שישאלו ממני מי שבידם במלכות השולטת בא"י ענינים אלו והיה עצם הנידון לפני בזה רק לבטלה וגם לא ברור לפני איך לדון וכ"ש שלא שייך לפני להשיב שלכן אנו בטוחים רק על השי"ת שהכל הוא רק בידו ומתפללים אליו שירחם עלינו ועל כל ישראל ויהיה הכל לטובה וגם ישלח לנו בקרוב משיח צדקנו
    והנני ידידו ואוהבו בלו"נ
    משה פיינשטיין

    רד"ק יהושע פרק ה פסוק יד
    בעת שראיתני מה שאין כן בבשר ודם וזה להחזיק בלבו כי מלאך הוא ויש בו דרש כי בא להפחידם על בטול תורה ועל שבטלו היום שעבר תמיד של בין הערבים אמר לו יהשוע על איזה מהם באת אמר לו עתה באתי כלו' על בטול תורה שאתם בטלים עתה מיד וילן יהושע בתוך העמק שלן בעומקה של הלכה וזה הדרש רחוק כי אין שעת המלחמה שעת ת"ת ועוד כי פסוק וילן יהושע הוא רחוק מזה הפרשה כי הוא במלחמת העי ועוד כי כותב הדרש הזה טעה בפסוק וילן כי ב' פסוקים הם וילן יהושע סופו בתוך העם והפסו' האחר וילן יהושע בלילה ההוא בתוך העמק ויש בו דרש אחר עתה באתי עתה באתי שני פעמים אני הוא שבאתי בימי משה רבך שנא' הנה אנכי שולח מלאך וראה אותי ולא רצה שאלך עמו שאמר להקב"ה איני חפץ אלא בך מיד ויפל יהושע אל פניו ארצה

    קובץ חידושי תורה
    הגרי'ד סולוביציק
    בענין מלחמת מצוה
    אלא דצ"ע דהרי הרמב"םבעצמו כתב בפ"ה מה' מלכים ה"א וז"ל ואיזו היא מלחמת מצוה זו מלחמת שבעת עמים ומלחמת עמלק ועזרת ישראל מיד צר שבא עליהם הרי דהרמב"ם פוסק דגם עזרת ישראל מיד צר שבא אליהם ג"כ הוי מלחמת מצוה שלא כהסוגיא דסוטה מד ב וא"כ הרי נכלל בלשון הרמב"ם מה שכתב דבמלחמת מצוה הכל יוצאין דאף במלחמת ישראל מיד צר שבא אליהם ג"כ אינם חוזרים מעורכי המלחמה והכה הרי כל חלות מצותו הוא חלות מצות מלחמה דלא שייך ליחיד וא"כ הרי מוכרח דדין של הכל יוצאין הוא דאינם פטורים מעצם דין מלחמה של מלחמת מצוה אלא דאין זה מוכרח די"ל דגם בעזרת ישראל מיד צר שבא עליהם הוא ג"כ דין בפמי עצמו שמלך יכול לכוף אותם לצאת למלחמה אף דחלות דין מלחמה ליכא גבייהו וכמו שמחדש חלות דין של מלחמת מצוה כמו כן איכא בזה צורך מדין כפי' וחוב על כל יחיד שהמלך יכול לכוף אותו לצאת למלחמה אבל מעצם חלות דין מלחמה פטורין הם וכש"נ

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  19. There is no halachic obligation of milchemet mitzva today. Both Rambam and Ramban write that all obligations of milchama are only in effect when the Jewish people have a king or someone with equivalent authority such as Moshe. The current Israeli government does not have such authority, ergo there is no halachic obligation to join the army, hashkafic and realistic obligations notwithstanding.

    R. stefansky

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    1. Although I am no expert I do believe that there are numerous halachic authorities today who say a democratic government in Israel has the halachic status of a "melech'.

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    2. Actually, the Israeli government *does* have that authority. Bibi Netanyahu is hardly less worthy than Yiftach, or Achav.

      Delete
    3. I uploaded this comment already, but I'm not sure if it went through. Please disregard it if it did.

      Y Ben David - there are numerous important differences between a Melech and a democratic government. Only a melech has full autonomous power, only a melech can force women to become his wives, only a melech can kill traitors halachically etc... An attempt to broaden the parameters of melech to include a democratic government is no less a distortion of Halacha than broadening the parameters of shevet Levi to include chareidim. And if we allow our poskim such halachic leeway, than we must allow the chareidi poskim the same. It is odd that we are so quick to jump on any chareidi position that is not explicit in Halacha, and so quick to believe our own poskim when they do the same. (I personally believe they should join the army for hashkafic reasons, but the intellectual dishonesty and hypocrisy really irks me).

      Nachum - see above. And it is not a question of worth but of binding halachic authority. And based on your argument Tzipi Livni would not. :)

      I added, in a comment awaiting moderation, that the rishonim further require the approval of a Sanhedrin and other criteria that we cannot fulfill today.
      Any argument that there is a halachic obligation today only detracts from the real reasons that chareidim should join the army. I am surprised that r slifkin has not picked up on this yet.
      r stefansky

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    4. An example of the difficulties of applying abstract Lomdus developed in an entirely different circumstance to a new reality never before imagined: an independent Israel under democratic governance. You can take this tack, but then you imply that halacha has no relevance to the real world. If halacha is supposed to have relevance, then it has to be fitted the the current situation using analogical reasoning and other methods that have always been used to apply halacha and law in general to new situations. The alternative, that halacha doesn't apply because the insitution of monarchy has fallen into disuse, is to relegate halacha to a dustbin.

      Delete
    5. David ohsie is obviously correct, but aside from that I think others in this thread are confusing milchemet reshuth with milchemet mitzvah in terms of the requirements.

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  20. "From a historical standpoint" lets for argument sake say that even defense is included when talking about war, then this is still a different situation between the current problem Israel is dealing with and the biblical wars. For example Biblical wars was mainly a numbers game while today its about military technology which means that placing the entire population at risk is not efficient or effective. Secondly because Israel is not officially at war with anybody at the moment mitzvot that are related to war making are not relevant and defense only in so far that a few select have to do so. An reason to serve in the army for the state of Israel is to create unity within its population, this has nothing to do with defence or war (Harediem can do their basic training within 7 days if needed in war) I doubt that during biblical times scholars and the am HaAretz were drafted for three years to serve for a potential war.

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    1. It is fascinating to see how ideological fanaticism leads one to completely deny reality. "Israel is not officially at war with anybody at the moment". Really? Do you ever glance at the headlines? Do you ever pay attention to what the Iranians, HIZBULLAH, HAMAS, FATAH say about us? Did you hear what happened last night in Jerusalem? 14 wounded. Do you even care?
      Regarding "Biblical times" did you ever bother to read the TANACH where it says that Shaul HaMelech set up the first standing army in Jewish history by recruiting the "giborim" of his time.

      Keep it up! You are doing an excellent job in creating huge rifts in the Orthodox/religious community.

      Delete
    2. Your assumptions are all wrong. First, a universal draft does not "place the entire population at risk." Even if it did, that's the cost of fighting wars. I don't have to tell you that the entire population of Israel is *already* at risk. And even if so, that hardly means that one should be safe merely because of one's hat style.

      Secondly, Israel is, indeed, officially at war with a few countries, but I hardly see why that would be a criteria anyway. Israel is at war whether it's "official" or not.

      No one can do basic training in seven days. Even when the US was rushing to prepare an army after Pearl Harbor they took a lot longer than that, and as you point out, things were simpler then.

      You can doubt what happened in biblical times, but the Torah itself makes clear that every male was expected to be ready to serve for forty years of his life. Not continuously, but there were long stretches.

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    3. @Nachum , thanks for your respectful comment. First related to "place the entire population at risk." it is clear that when part of an army one contains a higher amount of risk than the average civilians. The draft numbers (%) in biblical times were generally higher because that was the main strength of ones army. Today that is not relevant because technology and economy of modern times.

      As far as war status goes, i understand that some people might consider terrorism war however war simply means *armed conflict between different countries. and is related to state making in political science. if Israel is not officially at war then how can any war related Mitzva be applicable? Defence wise yes but again biblical text and how war was done is hardly applicable anno 2015.

      Thirdly: "Torah itself makes clear that every male was expected to be ready to serve for forty years of his life. Not continuously, but there were long stretches." could you provide the source for this statement? if it is indeed the case then yes according to Torah values people would have to serve a certain time period. But i doubt that it should be three years.

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    4. First related to "place the entire population at risk." it is clear that when part of an army one contains a higher amount of risk than the average civilians.

      By this logic, if we have 0 in the army, we reduce overall risk. This indicates there is something that is wrong with your logic. Can you spot the fallacy?

      if it is indeed the case then yes according to Torah values people would have to serve a certain time period. But i doubt that it should be three years.

      To begin with, it is not three year, it is 3 years of active duty followed by many years of reserved duty.

      More importantly, could your reveal your formula and how you came up with it?

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    5. Well, if the generals of Israel say that technology and economy have made large numbers of soldiers obsolete, I'll start listening. Not even American generals would say anything like that. The West has been bombing ISIS for years and not much has happened. If you are an expert on military policy, I apologize.

      You seem to have missed my line about Israel still being officially at war. I have a cousin on the Lebanon border right now. In any event, you are all wrong. Milchemet mitzvah does not depend on official definitions of war recognized by the UN, and why you'd think so is beyond me, unless you're just grasping at any straw that seems good.

      Well, Yehoshua took seven years to conquer Israel. A good start?

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  21. Tragically, yesterday morning the frum news outlets were reporting various Rosh Yeshivot touting the protection-value of their students' Torah learning (after an unexplainable Chanuka break) and by 15:00 they were reporting an almost record-high number of injured in the center of Jerusalem.

    Do they not notice the contradiction/conflict/irony/stupidity? As the students go back to learn... and why were they off in the first place....

    (I'm not saying they shouldn't be learning; but stop this anti-army tirade, as you wrote so deftly.)

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  22. Just to clarify my original statement "From a historical standpoint": One can not compare two totally different time periods with each other, also using historical in combination with biblical scripture is a problem unless you deem every word and situation true in its literal sense. Even IF one does accept the "biblical historical standpoint" in comparison with today's events the Mitzva of War (inc Defence) is not valid because Israel is currently not in a War situation* (with war i mean a state of armed conflict between different countries or different groups within a country.) Kosovo, Rwanda and Syria are good examples of war situations.
    Moreover if it is true what Nachum said " Torah itself makes clear that every male was expected to be ready to serve for forty years of his life" then according to biblical perspective one should go into Army service/training but here again only if one is ok with comparing todays situation with biblical times and its setting. "historical"

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    1. Nachum, I'm not sure we get to define war however we want to. Of the options to make peace, leave, or engage in war, the Druze made peace and the others have been attacking for 100 years.

      Delete
    2. So you're trying to use what you call "history" to both say that:

      1. Modern standards must be used to define war; since Israel is not fighting a war by those standards, halakha doesn't apply.

      2. Biblical standards must be used to define war; therefore a universal draft is not called for.

      Neither of these propositions even makes sense, and they contradict each other to boot.

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    3. Even IF one does accept the "biblical historical standpoint" in comparison with today's events the Mitzva of War (inc Defence) is not valid because Israel is currently not in a War situation* (with war i mean a state of armed conflict between different countries or different groups within a country.) Kosovo, Rwanda and Syria are good examples of war situations.\

      Your definition is arbitrary, but let's set that aside:

      1) Were the Gaza incursions and the circumstances precipitating them considered wars?

      2) In modern times, how do you participate as a soldier in a war with no prior training?

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    4. Sorry, I meant to write Natan instead of Nachum in my first reply.

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    5. @Nachum "So you're trying to use what you call "history" to both say that:

      1. Modern standards must be used to define war; since Israel is not fighting a war by those standards, halakha doesn't apply.

      2. Biblical standards must be used to define war; therefore a universal draft is not called for."

      I am not stating point 2 at all.

      @JD: "I'm not sure we get to define war however we want to. Of the options to make peace, leave, or engage in war, the Druze made peace and the others have been attacking for 100 years."

      There are standards for war and i am not making them.

      @David Ohsie "Your definition is arbitrary, but let's set that aside:

      1) Were the Gaza incursions and the circumstances precipitating them considered wars?

      2) In modern times, how do you participate as a soldier in a war with no prior training?"

      1# you need to tell me the year because they were not all the same (similar but not the same)

      2# One does not generally participate in war with no prior training, at the worst case one is drafted on the spot and given material (weapon) to act.

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    6. Natan, you say there is not even a war among peoples within Israel. The daily stabbings contradict your claim.

      Delete
  23. " If halacha is supposed to have relevance, then it has to be fitted the the current situation using analogical reasoning and other methods that have always been used to apply halacha and law in general to new situations. The alternative, that halacha doesn't apply because the insitution of monarchy has fallen into disuse, is to relegate halacha to a dustbin."
    Firstly, whether I agree with you or not (and essentially I do), this is a subjective philosophy of halachic jurisprudence, and one strongly ground in the naturalistic worldview that our host so proudly propagates. The chareidim are not bound by it, and therefore presenting the conscription of chareidim into the Israeli army as mitzvat milchemet mitzva is an exercise in sophistry. We cannot impose our own philosophy of Halacha on them any more than they can theirs on us. And since it is not binding on the chareidim themselves, it is meaningless for the purpose of this discussion.
    Secondly, as I commented earlier, once we engage in such analysis, we must allow the chareidi poskim the same leeway. Perhaps in order to facilitate a current application for the exemption of shevet Levi, the chareidi poskim can decide that, similar to the replacement of the melech with a democratic government, (something that the netziv already proposed), there has been another paradigm shift in the exemption from milchama, and based on the current socio-religious reality, it should be the chareidi population. I didn't formulate a comprehensive argument for this, since it is unnecessary. Once we have opened the door to such subjective psak, albeit within reason, a chareidi posek with a viable argument why the chareidim today resemble certain aspects of shevet Levi can exempt all the chareidim from conscription.
    Thirdly, the basis of your that if we are unable to tinker with the criteria of melech we have thus relegated Halacha to the dustbin is fallacious. There are plenty of halachot that no longer are relevant today (most of the 613 mitzvot), and I don't think anyone one feels that Halacha has been discarded or is no longer relevant. Where is the clamor to reinstitute egla arufa? Sotah anyone? Maybe if we can overlook the criteria of Beit din hagadol by the mitzva of milchama, we should similarly disregard it by malkut, and start whipping all those who eat non-kosher. More essentially however, the very point Rambam is endeavoring to make as he lays out the criteria for milchama, (at the end of his intoduction to sefer hamitzvot), is that certain mitzvot are indeed not relevant in any age, and only in a given context. Attempts to modify the criteria defy the very intent of Rambam.
    Finally, even if we would grant that we must rectify the obligation to consult the Sanhedrin before waging war to make it relevant today, the modern day equivalent be have to be something akin a consultation with the greatest halachic authorities in Israel - something that the government does not do. That is, not just a formal phone call, but subjugation to their authority. We would also have to figure out if we could consider the obligation fulfilled without consulting with chareidi authorities as well.
    I believe that I have pointed out a sufficient amount of flaws in the assumption that there is a mitzva to join the Israeli army. The obligation is hashakfic, realistic, and a matter of hakarat hatov. But, please, let's be honest and keep it to those.

    r stefansky

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    1. Your post ignores some simple facts:

      1. The State of Israel exists. It may not have come into existence in a way that pleased the charedim, or in a way that matched how Jews thought Mashiach would come. But it exists, and you can't wish it away by saying, "Oh, I'm a charedi."

      2. The charedim live in the State. They are subject to the same problems it has and can be expected to help out. The world again does not allow you to say, "Oh, I'm a charedi."

      3. The Arabs attacked us. You *definitely* can't say "Oh, I'm a charedi," although recently some charedim have tried.

      And so we apply halacha to new circumstances. That's what thinking Jews have done since at least the time of Ezra.

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    2. r stefansky, your rationales about the alleged inapplicability of the right of a melech to conscript people to wage war aren't really based on the Rambam. Leaving aside momentarily the issue of whether any body today has the status of a melech, you make a basic mistake in confusing the din of milchemet mitzvah (commanded war) with milchemet reshut(optional war). Only the latter requires prior consultation with a currently non-existent true Sanhedrin. The Rambam's M.T. Hilchot Melachim 5:2 teaches that in a Milchemet Mitzva, which includes defense against any enemy (5:1), the melech need not take prior counsel with a Sanhedrin, but proceeds as needed and forces the people to join him. As to the supposed exemption of Shevet Levi (or people who are deemed to have assumed that role), that is irrelevant for a Milchemet Mitzva where everyone is obligated to go (to war) even bride and groom under the Chupa (7:7). The inclusion of a defensive war in Milchemet Mitzvah is really a matter of logic. If such a war is not waged then many lives will be lost (more than in battle) and the land will again fall under foreign domination. It does not require an explicit torah command.

      The treatment of an effective governing authority as the equivalent of a melech is no different, in principle, from their authority to levy taxes and to punish lawbreakers - something that is considered a royal prerogative in 4:1. I also note that the Talmudic aphorism 'dina demalchuta dina' is considered by almost all poskim as applicable to the effective contemporary secular authorities. In any case, the argument that the secular authorities have the rights accorded to a king is primarily a question of logic. If they didn't have the right to levy taxes and to wage effective defensive wars then they would be unable to continue to govern, and chaos would reign. To cite another Talmudic aphorism, 'were it not for the fear of the authorities a man would swallow his brother (fellow) alive'.

      Y. Aharon

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    3. The language of Rambam at the end of Shmmita v'Yovel implies that the exemption of Shevet Levi, unlike other exemptions is across the board. The rationale is simple, Shevet Levi is essentially חיל השם, and thus assumes a different role in society; they are, by nature, unfit for war. A bridegroom and the like are essentially fit, yet receive an exemption. It is regard to this granted exemption that Rambam holds that it applies only to a milchemet reshut. BTW, Rashi and others are of the opinion that all wars require the approval of beit din.

      I am not arguing against the obligation based on dina d'malchuta dina. On this, the chareidi poskim have their own responses. I only wrote that the mitzva of milchemet mitzva is unapplicable.

      R stefansky

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    4. @Nachum
      My post did not ignore any facts. It is you who missed the gist of my post. All of your points only serve to argue that the chareidim should be expected to serve in the army, something I agree to - see the end of my post. I only argued against the position presented by Rabbi Slifkin that it is a milchemet mitzva.
      Next time, please read posts more carefully before commenting.

      "And so we apply halacha to new circumstances. That's what thinking Jews have done since at least the time of Ezra."
      I addressed this fully.
      R Stefansky

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  24. "Learning Torah... only accrues merit if it is the right thing to do."
    How do you know this? There is an extensive discussion amongst the achronim, based on a statement of Tosafot, if one performs a mitzva at a time when he is forbidden to, and the complex criteria for mitzva haba b'aveira have not been met, whether or not, besides for the aveira, he accrues merit for the mitzva. And, indeed, it is logical to assume that if one performed a mitzva, even if it involves shirking other responsibilities, that his mitzva is not completely for naught. Surely he has some virtue over someone who dodged the the draft or refused to help his wife for no reason whatsoever. Yes, he did something wrong, but as well he did something right. This is surely the case here where a vast majority of chareidim are certainly shogegim. Let God deal with the specific fault/merit ratio, but how can you make a qualifying statement that they accrue no merit whatsoever?
    r stefansky

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  25. @ R Stefansky

    If halacha is supposed to have relevance, then it has to be fitted the the current situation using analogical reasoning and other methods that have always been used to apply halacha and law in general to new situations. The alternative, that halacha doesn't apply because the insitution of monarchy has fallen into disuse, is to relegate halacha to a dustbin.
    Firstly, whether I agree with you or not (and essentially I do), this is a subjective philosophy of halachic jurisprudence, and one strongly ground in the naturalistic worldview that our host so proudly propagates.

    Not really, it is what has actually always been done. We have not had a king for some time and it is unlikely that we will, yet Jewish communities over the years have exercised authority within the sphere granted to them. Modern Israel simply presents a more unconstrained version of prior circumstances.

    The chareidim are not bound by it, and therefore presenting the conscription of chareidim into the Israeli army as mitzvat milchemet mitzva is an exercise in sophistry.

    It think that you mean futility and not sophistry. It is not sophistry to argue sincerely against your opponents position.

    We cannot impose our own philosophy of Halacha on them any more than they can theirs on us. And since it is not binding on the chareidim themselves, it is meaningless for the purpose of this discussion.

    The fact that something can't be imposed means precisely that persuasive argument is the only method left.

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  26. Secondly, as I commented earlier, once we engage in such analysis, we must allow the chareidi poskim the same leeway. Perhaps in order to facilitate a current application for the exemption of shevet Levi, the chareidi poskim can decide that, similar to the replacement of the melech with a democratic government, (something that the netziv already proposed), there has been another paradigm shift in the exemption from milchama, and based on the current socio-religious reality, it should be the chareidi population.

    The problem with this is that it is transparently self-serving which is why they would never state it this way. Moreover, the translation of the general concept of Melech to the current government is something that is not even argued . Does anyone really argue that the current Israeli government does not have the right (and in fact the duty) to raise an army to protect the nation and to prosecute war as it sees fit? (I mean outside Satmar and their ilk).

    I didn't formulate a comprehensive argument for this, since it is unnecessary. Once we have opened the door to such subjective psak, albeit within reason, a chareidi posek with a viable argument why the chareidim today resemble certain aspects of shevet Levi can exempt all the chareidim from conscription.

    We have religious freedom, so you are right that any Posek can say anything, just as the Conservative Reform and Atheists can say anything. What of it?

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  27. Thirdly, the basis of your that if we are unable to tinker with the criteria of melech we have thus relegated Halacha to the dustbin is fallacious. There are plenty of halachot that no longer are relevant today (most of the 613 mitzvot), and I don't think anyone one feels that Halacha has been discarded or is no longer relevant. Where is the clamor to reinstitute egla arufa? Sotah anyone?

    I think that you can see the difference. The existence of Israel (or any nation) depends on some form of governance. So there will be governance and it will effect people's lives greatly. Halachah can play a or or not; if it cannot, then it becomes irrelevant.

    Maybe if we can overlook the criteria of Beit din hagadol by the mitzva of milchama, we should similarly disregard it by malkut, and start whipping all those who eat non-kosher.

    I think that this would be a bad idea, but understand that Jewish religious authorities have in fact used various forms of corporal punishment post Beit Din Hagadol for religious violations. The reason that this is not a good idea has nothing to do with a lack of Beis Din Hagadol, and everything to do with the fact that religious coercion is ineffective and such corporal punishment has not been agreed to for any offence by the governed. Nevertheless, I have never seen anyone argue that police in Israel are constrained from using force where needed, nor that the judicial system cannot jail criminals.

    More essentially however, the very point Rambam is endeavoring to make as he lays out the criteria for milchama, (at the end of his intoduction to sefer hamitzvot), is that certain mitzvot are indeed not relevant in any age, and only in a given context. Attempts to modify the criteria defy the very intent of Rambam.
    Finally, even if we would grant that we must rectify the obligation to consult the Sanhedrin before waging war to make it relevant today, the modern day equivalent be have to be something akin a consultation with the greatest halachic authorities in Israel - something that the government does not do. That is, not just a formal phone call, but subjugation to their authority. We would also have to figure out if we could consider the obligation fulfilled without consulting with chareidi authorities as well.


    Again, this is silly and impractical. There is no such body to consult with and no one even making an effort to construct such a body. So by this reasoning, either halacha commands us to commit national suicide by abandoning the defense of the nation or else halacha is irrelevant.

    In any case, the essence of the halacha is that war cannot be declared by kings and generals without the approval of the civilian authorities representing the nation. We have mechanisms for this.

    I believe that I have pointed out a sufficient amount of flaws in the assumption that there is a mitzva to join the Israeli army. The obligation is hashakfic, realistic, and a matter of hakarat hatov. But, please, let's be honest and keep it to those.

    Since we don't have any halachic body to make such decisions, a realistic, hashkafic obligation is the maximum attainable.

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    1. At the risk of being labeled a heretic by every side to this discussion:

      Isn't it possible to consider the Knesset as the equivalent of the Sanhedrin? At least insofar as legislative and administrative government functions. Remember that the Sanhedrin carried out the legislative, executive and judicial functions of government - sometimes in cooperation with the monarchy, sometimes in competition. While the Knesset may not consist of the greatest talmidei chachamim of the generation, and does not pretend to speak in the name of Torah (let alone da'as Torah), they may be an acceptable authority for the "secular" aspects of governance.

      Thoughts? Responses?

      Delete
  28. Halevai the Charedim would ACTUALLY be learning Torah. Then at least there could be a debate, if we can refer to something as a "debate" when one side of it is an absurdity invented purely for deflection and PR. The unfortunate reality, though, is that a huge percentage of charedim over the age of 20 aren't even learning at all. I was in a charedi yeshivah, for two years. Large numbers are just whiling away their time. Sad.

    As to the ones who actually are learning, and what weight to assign to what passes for "learning" today - something for another time.

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  29. @David Ohsie
    Thank you for your response.
    What I meant by sophistry, is that it is apparently sound, but in actuality it is fallacious, since the chareidim themselves have full right to turn to their own poskim in these matters.
    My comment that I need not formulate a response why the chareidim have assumed the role of Shevet Levi was to save myself from descending into an argument what exactly are the parameters of Shevet Levi, and do the charedim fulfill them. I hope you can differentiate between allowing the charedi poskim to argue so halachically and assuming conservative ideals.

    "Again, this is silly and impractical. There is no such body to consult with and no one even making an effort to construct such a body. So by this reasoning, either halacha commands us to commit national suicide by abandoning the defense of the nation or else halacha is irrelevant."

    This is a quintessential paradigm of the strawman fallacy. I am not arguing against the conscription itself. I believe it to be worthy, necessary, and virtuous. I only wrote that it does not fulfill the criteria of milchemet mitzva, and certainly not in regard to the chareidim themselves, as their poskim have full halachic authority to understand that the criterion of melech is not fulfilled by a government. And I have yet to see a convincing rebuttal on this point, proving it is a mitzva.

    I also notice that you didn't respond to my point that Rambam himself wrote that these mitzvot are age-dependent. And, yes, perhaps you could argue that in today's age it is a mitzva once more. Maybe. But maybe not. I don't think the Rambam would agree.
    "Since we don't have any halachic body to make such decisions, a realistic, hashkafic obligation is the maximum attainable."
    I think we agree for practical purposes, but for the sake of honesty let's keep it to those.

    (After revisiting the words of Rambam, (below), I believe that you could propose that even if in regard to other halachot the government has taken the place of the melech, perhaps in regard to the mitzva - specifically the mitzva not the ability or hashkafic obligation - of milchama we require malchut beit david)
    ידוע גם כן שהנבואה והמלוכה כבר נסתלקו ממנו עד שנסור מן העונות שאנחנו מחזיקים בהם ויכפר לנו וירחמנו כמו שייעדנו ויחזירם לנו. כמו שאמר בחזרת הנבואה (יואל ג) והיה אחרי כן אשפוך את רוחי על כל בשר ונבאו בניכם ובנותיכם. ואמר בחזרת המלך והממשלה (עמוס ט) ביום ההוא אקים את סוכת דויד הנופלת וגדרתי את פרציהן והריסותיו אקים ובניתיה כימי עולם. וידוע שהמלחמות וכבוש הארצות לא יהיה אלא במלך ובעצת סנהדרי גדולה (סנה' ב א, טז א, כ ב, ה' סנה' פ"ה סה"א מלכים פ"ה ה"ב) וכהן גדול כמו שאמר (פינחס כז) ולפני אלעזר הכהן יעמוד (עי' סנה' טז א). ולפרסום הענינים האלו כלם אצל רוב האנשים כל מצות עשה או לא תעשה שתהיה תלויה בקרבנות או בעבודות או במיתות בית דין או בסנהדרין או בנביא ומלך או מלחמת מצוה או מלחמת רשות לא אצטרך שאומר בה וזאת אין אנו חייבים בה אלא בפני הבית.
    R stefansky

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    1. R stefansky, where is this citation to be found? As to what the Rambam states at the end of hilchot shmitta and yovel about shevet Levi and those who take the same role and obligations, that does not refer to a milchemet mitzva in order that their be no contradiction with what he has explicitly stated in hilchot melachim 5:2. Your distinction between a Levi allegedly unfit for war and a kallah who is somehow more fit is, apparently, your invention.

      Y. Aharon

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    2. @Y Aharon
      After שרש יד in Sefer Hamitzvot.
      I think we will end in disagreement on this point, but I do appeal to your good judgement.
      Firstly, it is not essentially a contradiction. Rambam is discussing two different exemptions.
      What we have is two halachot in the MT. One, where Rambam makes a categorical statement that Shevet Levi does not join the army. Unless we have significant reason to assume otherwise, we must understand the this applies in every circumstance, as Rambam has not made any effort to qualify it. And two, in melachim 7:4 where he rules that certain exemptions only apply by milchemet reshut (Rambam's language there is only refering to those exemptions discussed in hilchot melachim). (5:2 is irrelevant to this specific discussion).
      Now, we have two routes of reconciliation. We can add our own qualification to the halacha in Shemmita v'Yovel, in order to have the same guidelines for all exemptions. We could. I cannot prove this wrong anymore than you can prove me wrong. Or we could evaluate the parameters and respective rationale of the different exemption, and decide if we should even assume that they share similar guidelines of exemption.
      Now, even if we could not, I would still not want to add my own qualification to Rambam's words in Shemitta V'yovel, and I would assume that whatever rationale he had for exempting Shevet Levi, it is equally applicable in milchemt mitzva. I don't believe it is even necessary for us to have an explanation to assume that Rambam meant what he said across the board. After all, he is discussing a different exemption. And, in actuality, since there IS a very simple difference in the basic rationale, we certainly should do so.
      This distinction is not my own invention. Rambam wrote that the exemption of Shevet Levi is due to their socio-religious status. They essentially occupy a different role in Jewish society, and therefore their obligations to the klal differ as well. They are חיל השם. And therefore, by nature, not men of war. This rationale is equally applicable in milchemet mitzva. - Look at Rambam's words. - A kallah, in regard to her obligations to Jewish society due to her nature as a Jewess, does not differ from a non-kallah. Her exemption from from milchama is therefore a granted exemption, (similiar to the lomdut of gezeirat hakatuv), and subject to specific guidelines.

      I have to investigate this more but in 7:10 he seems to imply that even some of the exemptions he mentioned in hilchot melachim apply by milchemet mitzva, עיי"ש.
      ואלו שאין יוצאין לעורכי המלחמה כל עיקר, ואין מטריחין אותם לשום דבר בעולם, הבונה בית וחנכו, והנושא ארוסתו או שייבם, ומי שחלל כרמו, אין יוצאין עד תום שנה, שנאמר נקי יהיה לביתו שנה אחת ושמח את אשתו אשר לקח, מפי הקבלה למדו שיהיה נקי שנה בין לבית שקנה, בין לאשה שנשא, בין לכרם שהתחיל לאכול פריו.

      BTW, if it indeed has the status of milchama, we should try to institute all the applicable laws in melachim ch. 7.
      R Stefansky

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    3. "No, I don't think that this follows at all. If some Jewish subgroup paskened for their own subgroup that they don't have to return the lost object of all the other Jewish subgroups, then this would be invalid."
      Firstly, if they have substantial reason to, I think it would be valid. Why do you assume it wouldn't? Secondly, Rambam himself did so. He rules that anyone who does not accept his ikkarim is considered halachically a non-Jew, and therefore one would not have to return his lost objects. As far as I know ,the chareidim have not done so yet; I have yet to hear from chareidi poskim, save satmar, that they do not have to comply with the government since they are apikorsim. (I am not claiming that they are, just that the chareidim can). But they can.

      "In general paskening a leniency for yourself when the impact of the leniency is a stringency on others is not valid."
      Firstly, again, why do you assume this is so? Do you have a source? If it is paskened honestly, and based on sound halachic reasoning, why wouldn't it be? If that is indeed the halacha, it is binding. You might not be able to compel others to adhere to it, but on yourself it is valid. Secondly, this is paskening for a community, not somebody paskening for himself.

      "If one of the litigants stands to lose something they also have to accept the judges. You can't just go to your own."
      This is where two different parties have appeared in beit din over a monetary din torah. It is not analogous to somebody's ability to pasken for a community, be it לחומרא or לקולא. Furthermore, in דיני ממנות one DOES have the ability to say קים לי and assume self-serving halachic opinion and not heed the psak of the beit din.

      R Stefansky

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    4. R Stefansky, I believe that you are misled into placing particular emphasis on what the Rambam said about the Levi'im at the end of hilchot shmitta veyovel. His source for the exemption of the Levi'im is the torah's not incorporating shevet Levi into the count of adult males who would constitute the source of the fighting men. His subsequent mention of those who take upon themselves the role of Levi'im in serving the people's religious needs appears to be his own innovation. In any case, these should be treated as words of encouragement to live such a life, rather than some overriding halachic implication. Besides, women are also not counted in the torah. The clear implication is that they do not normally serve in the military. The Levi'im are no more exempt than women from such duty. If even a kallah is not exempt in a milchemet mitzvah, why should Levi'im - much less those Yisraelim who wish to imitate them or claim such status without providing much or any evidence.

      My treatment of the final words of the Rambam in hilchot shmita veyovel as words of encouragement rather than strict halacha is consistent with other such parting words of the Rambam elsewhere in MT. For example in hilchot melachim 7:20 he states that those who fight whole-heartedly to serve GOD, sanctify the Name, and protect the people will not come to harm and have an everlasting reward. The latter should be true, however the Rambam must have known that even the most sincere fighter can be maimed and killed. GOD gives no guarantee - particularly not in dangerous situations. The wording of 7:20 must therefore be considered only as words of encouragement. The same would apply to his statements about those who would emulate these ideal Levi'im.

      I fail to understand your generalization of 7:10 to include pseudo-Levites into the military exemption list. That list is only those who need not report for military duty in a milchemet reshut. 7:7 explicitly states that the list of exemptions given in 7:1-6 doesn't apply to milchemet mitzvah where even a groom can be pulled from his (marital) chamber and a bride from her chupah. A bride should be more exempt than other women for battle, yet she is called for an obligatory war. A chatan would be just as exempt in an optional war as a man who has only betrothed a woman since no indication is given that he has already had marital relations with his bride when he is pulled out of his chamber. An obligatory war, however, obligates even him to military service without delay.

      Y. Aharon

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    5. @Y Aharon
      A side note, Rambam has a clearer halachic source from the Sifrei Matot 157:מה ת"ל לכל מטות ישראל תשלחו לצבא להביא את שבטו של לוי. Since we require an passuk to include Shevet Levi, it stands to reason that everywhere else they are exempt. (Similar to the often used method of derash in the gemara מדאיצטריך לרבויי).

      You certainly can understand halacha 13 as encouragement, (and you need not prove the validity of such an understanding from melachim 7:20; there is a multitude of examples where Rambam concludes a chapter or set of halachot with words of mussar). But I was referring to halacha 12, where the exemption for shevet levi is a practical matter. I wrote that the poskim have the authority to broaden the parameters to include the chareidim, (by assuming that there has been a paradigm shift), much like we can broaden the parameters of melech to include the government.

      As for 7:10 - My point was only that we find exemptions from milchemet mitzva by other exemptions as well. The halachot in melachim 7 are as follows. In halacha 3 he cites the פסוקים from which we learn some exemptions. In 4 he states they, the previous exemptions, only apply in milchemet reshut.
      From 5 to 8 he delineates whom exactly is included in the exmeptions. In 9 he discusses what they do on the way back. Finally in 10 he writes ואלו שאין יוצאין לעורכי המלחמה כל עיקר, ואין מטריחין אותם לשום דבר בעולם, הבונה בית וחנכו, והנושא ארוסתו או שייבם, ומי שחלל כרמו, אין יוצאין עד תום שנה, שנאמר נקי יהיה לביתו שנה אחת ושמח את אשתו אשר לקח, מפי הקבלה למדו שיהיה נקי שנה בין לבית שקנה, בין לאשה שנשא, בין לכרם שהתחיל לאכול פריו.
      All of the exemptees here were hitherto unmentioned - look at Rambam's words carefully, (the chosson and kalla in 7:4 are pre-nissuin and therefore not included in 10 where Rambam is discussing post-nissuin) -, and indeed Rambams derives their exemption from a different passuk. His source is Sotah 44a. These are clearly a different category of exemptees. And in regard to these he writes: שאין יוצאין לעורכי המלחמה "כל עיקר", ואין מטריחין אותם לשום דבר בעולם. This implies milchemet mitzva as well.
      The only possible rejoinder is that כל עיקר means that they need not be "מספקין מים ומזון לאחיהם שבצבא, ומתקנין את הדרכים" of halacha 9, and לשום דבר בעולם is לאו דוקא.

      R Stefansky

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    6. "One, where Rambam makes a categorical statement that Shevet Levi does not join the army."

      Total nonsense. He writes:
      לא עורכין מלחמה כשאר ישראל
      He does not write: לא עורכין מלחמה
      Why then does he add the qualifier כשאר ישראל? How is the statement categorical? And yet you would claim that when the Rambam writes that הכל יוצאים- that alone is not a categorical statement?
      I refer you to R' Moshe Shtenbuchs תשובות on או"ח חלק א סימן קלא where he writes that שבט לוי is only exempted from a מלחמת רשות.
      You cite above the following:
      וידוע שהמלחמות וכבוש הארצות לא יהיה אלא במלך ובעצת סנהדרי גדולה
      Clearly, we're talking about a מלחמת רשות, as the סנהדרין are not needed to approve a מלחמת מצוה.

      I find that we have here is a series of conflations and chilukim- each selected & applied according to convenience.

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    7. "Total nonsense."
      Even if you are right, it is only partial nonsense;).

      "He writes:
      לא עורכין מלחמה כשאר ישראל
      He does not write: לא עורכין מלחמה
      Why then does he add the qualifier כשאר ישראל? How is the statement categorical?"
      Good question. Let me explain. You have made a leap from asking Why then does he add the qualifier כשאר ישראל? to How is the statement categorical?. You agree that לא עורכין מלחמה on its own would clearly be referring to milchemet mitzva as well. You assume that since Rambam added כשאר ישראל, somehow this modifies the previous statement, and now it only refers to milchemet reshut. I don't know how you know this, and if that was his intention, he should have simply written לא עורכין מלחמת רשות, so obviously the intention of כשאר ישראל is not just to limit לא עורכין מלחמה to reshut. Why does he add it? He adds the qualifier because he is trying to derive from the exemption of Shevet Levi that they are, by nature, different the rest of the JP; they do not receive a potion in Israel, nor share in booty etc. He is trying to drive home his ultimate point that they have a unique status חיל השם, so he highlights the fact that they are not like שאר ישראל. So, if Rambam meant to qualify his statement to reshut, כשאר ישראל is an ambiguous and unnecessarily wordy way of doing so, and we have a plausible explanation of why he did write it.
      Furthermore, the sifrei in Matot (cited earlier) which required a derash to include the Levi'im is by a war that Hashem expressly commanded. Is that not a milchemet mitzva? And yet without a derash the Levi'im would have been exempt.
      You are entitled to understand Rambam differently, I just believe that my understanding is more plausible.

      "And yet you would claim that when the Rambam writes that הכל יוצאים- that alone is not a categorical statement?"
      You make a basic mistake in misunderstanding the word הכל. It does not mean everyone in the world, or every single Jew, but rather everyone mentioned previously. Rambam in MT does this fairly often. He will mention a list of something, then write הכל...; he is not referring to every conceivable instance, but rather all of the examples or cases mentioned. A Bar-ilan search for הכל in the MT will demonstrate this.
      Not to mention that in 7:10, he implies that even certain non-levites are exempt from milchemet mitzva - see my earlier comment.

      "I refer you to R' Moshe Shtenbuchs תשובות on או"ח חלק א סימן קלא where he writes that שבט לוי is only exempted from a מלחמת רשות. "
      Argumentum ab auctoritate. If your argument has merit, let it stand on its own, and if it does not, then even R Moshe Shternbuch cannot help you. And, ולטעמיך, other Chareidi authorities maintain that they are exempt.

      "You cite above the following:
      וידוע שהמלחמות וכבוש הארצות לא יהיה אלא במלך ובעצת סנהדרי גדולה
      Clearly, we're talking about a מלחמת רשות, as the סנהדרין are not needed to approve a מלחמת מצוה."
      True, milchemet mitzva, at least acc. to Rambam does not require עצת סנהדרין. Yet, it is clear that he meant that certain criteria that he mentioned apply by milchemet mitzva as well, since later on he makes it clear that he was previously referring to milchemet mitzva as well. Therefore, we must say it is the criterion of melech. And it is logical to assume so. A melech is a staple of milchama, and therefore necessary in every war. עצת סנהדרין is only a requirement if the melech does not have an express obligation to proceed, and since by milchemet mitzva he knows he is obligated, he need not seek their counsel.
      R Stefansky

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    8. R Stefansky, even if I agree with your argument that it is possible to read the Rambam so as to exclude shevet Levi from even a milchemet mitzvah, how does that include yeshiva guys and kollelniks? Even with Levi'im, the exclusion according to the Rambam is due to their biblical role as torah students and teachers who must devote themselves to such a life without distractions. Others, Jew and Gentile (according to the Rambam's all inclusive language) who take upon themselves such a role are only accorded sustenance. Nothing is mentioned about not serving in an army. Nor is there an implication that they are entitled to the portion (ma'aser) allotted to the Levites or that giving a tithe to such a person removes the torah's obligation to give ma'aser to the Levi. Nor can they serve in the bet hamikdash in the capacity of Levi'im. They are not Levi'im, and any attempt to make such an equivalence is unconvincing.

      Y. Aharon

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    9. Y. Aharon, you seem to understand my position that I base my inclusion of the chareidim in the status of Shevet Levi on halacha 13 where Rambam expands the the Shevet Levi paradigm to include others as well. I am not. You are correct that that halacha is a poor source for such an inclusion. Firsly, it can be viewed as words of encouragement, and secondly, the parameters of the halacha clearly differ from that of halacha 12; it is referring to non-Jews as well, and there is no implication of exemption from war, etc. I am not basing my proposed chareidi exemption on assuming that this is something that Rambam himself alluded to in either halacha 12 or 13.
      Rather I was positing as follows. Inasmuch as we assume that contemporary poskim have the authority to modify the criteria required for certain halachot in the interest of making them relevant to our current reality, and we indeed allow poskim to expand the melech criteria to include the government(see David Ohsie's earlier comment), is it beyond the halachic authority of the chareidi poskim to modify the Shevet Levi exemption to include the charedim? That is, I am referring to an expansion of the criteria of halacha 12, where there is indeed an exemption from milchama. If if the charedim assume that whatever service Shevet Levi performed for the klal, let's say students and teachers, is now performed by chareidim, at least the ones learning torah, then, much like the status of melech has evolved to become government, than the status of Shevet Levi can evolve to become chareidi, or at very least chareidi-who-is-learning.
      I personally do not believe that it has, since the dedication of many chareidim to living such a distraction free life of torah learning is very wanting. And their are numerous other factors to consider as well. But why can't their poskim - who I'm sure are under that impression - make such an argument?

      R Stefansky

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    10. "You agree that לא עורכין מלחמה on its own would clearly be referring to milchemet mitzva as well."

      No I don't. Certainly not "clearly".

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    11. "the sifrei in Matot"

      ...is inconclusive. You can read it anyway you want. There are two different texts, one that has Levi included, the other- excluded. In any case, we read the drasha (in/exclude) in one of two ways. We can read as telling us something specific to the war against Midyan as opposed to some other מלחמת מצוה- i.e. here the Levi'im were in/excluded, but in other wars they are ex/included. Or we can read the drasha to teach us something about a מלחמת מצוה in general, of which the war against Midyan was a typical case.
      And yet there's another approach, I recall reading it in the name of R' Kanievsky that the war against Midyan was neither רשות nor מצוה but in a category of its own. Thus, we can't infer anything from this drasha at all!

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    12. "is it beyond the halachic authority of the chareidi poskim to modify the Shevet Levi exemption to include the charedim? "

      Didn't you just write "Argumentum ab auctoritate"?


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    13. "A melech is a staple of milchama, and therefore necessary in every war."

      Where do you get that? I recall there were many wars before the era of kings.

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    14. "Yet, it is clear that he meant that certain criteria that he mentioned apply by milchemet mitzva as well, since later on he makes it clear that he was previously referring to milchemet mitzva as well"

      What "certain criteria"? And what do you mean by "later"?

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    15. R Stefansky, I appreciate the nature of your argumentation and agree that there is a seeming inconsistency between what the Rambam rules in Hilchot Melachim where even a chatan-kalla are not exempt from a milchemet mitzva and his statement about the exemption of shevet Levi at the end of Seifer Zera'im. However, the issue of how to apply those halachot regarding the milchemet mitzva of a defensive war to contemporary conditions is less uncertain. We aren't dealing with Levi'im, but Hareidim who seek the same Maimonidean exemption. There is a difference, in principle, between an acceptance of an effective national authority as being the de facto equivalent to a king of ancient times, and the desire of some to make use of a Levitical exemption. In the latter case, we can ask any such would-be claimant to prove that he is the equivalent of the Rambam's Levi in terms of dedication and service to the public. After all, that is part of the Rambam's rationale for the Levitic exemption. Anyone who can't bring evidence that he is dedicated to both torah study and public teaching should not be able to claim a military exemption based on the Rambam. The fact that the Hareidi rabbinic leaders make no such distinction and argue for exemption of all Hareidim of military age regardless of their occupation is a sign of unconcern about the milchemet mitzva argument from the Rambam or the applicability of a shevet Levi analogy. They may argue that in the absence of a king, there is no authority to conscript for even a defensive war. However, such an argument flies in the face of reason. If everyone felt that way, there would hardly be an army to defend the people against present enemies. Moreover, the lack of authority to tax could be correspondingly adduced. Without revenue, a government could not function and chaos would result.

      Y. Aharon

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    16. @Ephraim
      "Didn't you just write "Argumentum ab auctoritate"?"
      You are conflating logical reasoning with legal authority. Argumentum ab auctoritate is the logical fallacy of assuming that since an authority figure made a statement it is either true or of conclusive reasoning. It has nothing to do with the legal authority of such a figure. The chareidi poskim have halachic authority over their community, but that does not mean I have to accept every argument that they made halachically as conclusive.

      "Where do you get that? I recall there were many wars before the era of kings.
      What "certain criteria"? And what do you mean by "later"?"
      Later on in the paragraph cited ולפרסום הענינים האלו כלם אצל רוב האנשים כל מצות עשה או לא תעשה שתהיה תלויה בקרבנות או בעבודות או במיתות בית דין או בסנהדרין או בנביא ומלך או מלחמת מצוה או מלחמת רשות לא אצטרך שאומר בה וזאת אין אנו חייבים בה אלא בפני הבית. Rambam lists halachot which, based on what he wrote previously, have certain criteria that are unfulfilled in every age, and therefore will not be perpetually relevant. One of those is milchemet mitzva. Now, the only criteria that are applicable to milchama are melech, sanhedrin, and cohen gadol. Sanhedrin and cohen gadol are unnecessary by milchemet mitzva, so it stands to reason it refers to melech. And the distinction, as I wrote, is simple. The necessity of sanhedrin and cohen gadol is to provide counsel if the army should proceed to war, (by sanhedrin he writes בעצת סנהדרין, and by cohen gadol he cites the passuk of asking Hashem through the אורים ותומים), and since these are unnecessary by a milchemet mitzva, as he is anyway is compelled to proceed. However the criterion of melech is equally necessary by milchemet reshut and mitzva. Therefore it is logical to assume that it is this criterion Rambam was referring to.

      @Y. Aharon
      I agree that "The fact that the Hareidi rabbinic leaders make no such distinction and argue for exemption of all Hareidim of military age regardless of their occupation is a sign of unconcern about the milchemet mitzva argument from the Rambam or the applicability of a shevet Levi analogy." But then, this is how the opposition to the blanket exemption for the chareidim should be presented, and not "From a halachic standpoint, as we have explained on many occasions, there is simply no exemption in a milchemes mitzvah for Torah students." Since, I think that allowing a controllable number of elite students exemption, who can bring evidence to that effect, would fall under this exemption. As you wrote, "Anyone who can't bring evidence that he is dedicated to both torah study and public teaching should not be able to claim a military exemption based on the Rambam", but the few who can...
      Now, there are still the other considerations that R Slifkin raised, but I think the proposed exemption for 1800? elite students, (we can quibble about the precise number, maybe less, maybe more), could satisfy, at least acc. to some poskim, the halachic requirements for exemption.
      R Stefansky

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  30. Rabbi Stefansky, let's put malchus aside. Are you claiming that if there is a community of Jews, and enemies come to attack, that there is no halachic obligation to help defend the community?

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  31. @Curious,
    Certainly not. There is a halacha of לא תעמד על דם רעך, and a mitzva of pikuach nefesh.
    But firstly, I was addressing the position that it is a milchemet mitzva.
    And secondly, the above do not require one to join the army today, for multiple reasons.
    And, Curious, - what if I was? Would it be so terrible? Must there be an express halachic obligation? Let it be in the halachic realm of things such as manners. There is no specific halachic obligation not to rape someone, yet we all understand that it is not ratzon hashem. Not everything that is morally incumbent on us is halachically mandated. B'ezrat Hashem, when the Sanhedrin is reinstated they will have the authority to make more drastic changes in halacha. But it is only the chareidim who believe that their responsibilities as Jews do not extend past the words of the Shulchan Aruch.
    R Stefansky

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    1. Sadly, there are Jews who believe there is no prohibition against rape. Naturally, they don't call it that, but anyone who is objective knows it is so.

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  32. What I meant by sophistry, is that it is apparently sound, but in actuality it is fallacious, since the chareidim themselves have full right to turn to their own poskim in these matters.

    That's not what sophistry means. I have a right to smoke, but it is not sophistry to for people to tell me that it is a bad idea. (I don't smoke, it is just an example).

    My comment that I need not formulate a response why the chareidim have assumed the role of Shevet Levi was to save myself from descending into an argument what exactly are the parameters of Shevet Levi, and do the charedim fulfill them. I hope you can differentiate between allowing the charedi poskim to argue so halachically and assuming conservative ideals.

    No, I don't think that this follows at all. If some Jewish subgroup paskened for their own subgroup that they don't have to return the lost object of all the other Jewish subgroups, then this would be invalid. In general paskening a leniency for yourself when the impact of the leniency is a stringency on others is not valid. If one of the litigants stands to lose something they also have to accept the judges. You can't just go to your own.



    This is a quintessential paradigm of the strawman fallacy. I am not arguing against the conscription itself. I believe it to be worthy, necessary, and virtuous. I only wrote that it does not fulfill the criteria of milchemet mitzva, and certainly not in regard to the chareidim themselves, as their poskim have full halachic authority to understand that the criterion of melech is not fulfilled by a government. And I have yet to see a convincing rebuttal on this point, proving it is a mitzva.

    You argued that government's right to conscript whoever they deemed necessary depended on following procedures that no longer can be followed. I think that this argument is flawed and devalues halacha by making into a bunch of arbitrary rules that prevent a modern Jewish society from operating.

    ידוע גם כן שהנבואה והמלוכה כבר נסתלקו ממנו עד שנסור מן העונות שאנחנו מחזיקים בהם ויכפר לנו וירחמנו כמו שייעדנו ויחזירם לנו. כמו שאמר בחזרת הנבואה (יואל ג) והיה אחרי כן אשפוך את רוחי על כל בשר ונבאו בניכם ובנותיכם. ואמר בחזרת המלך והממשלה (עמוס ט) ביום ההוא אקים את סוכת דויד הנופלת וגדרתי את פרציהן והריסותיו אקים ובניתיה כימי עולם. וידוע שהמלחמות וכבוש הארצות לא יהיה אלא במלך ובעצת סנהדרי גדולה (סנה' ב א, טז א, כ ב, ה' סנה' פ"ה סה"א מלכים פ"ה ה"ב) וכהן גדול כמו שאמר (פינחס כז) ולפני אלעזר הכהן יעמוד (עי' סנה' טז א). ולפרסום הענינים האלו כלם אצל רוב האנשים כל מצות עשה או לא תעשה שתהיה תלויה בקרבנות או בעבודות או במיתות בית דין או בסנהדרין או בנביא ומלך או מלחמת מצוה או מלחמת רשות לא אצטרך שאומר בה וזאת אין אנו חייבים בה אלא בפני הבית.

    I don't find your interpretation compelling. No one anticipated that we would have the re-establishment of a sovereign Jewish state without the Messiah or the Temple. What he writes here is that it goes without saying that the laws of war don't apply today, so he need not repeat the phrase "this does not apply without the Temple" to every such halachah. He specifically doesn't go on to break down the exact parameters of what applies when and leaves the general principle. Now that war is obviously very relevant, such exclusion of all laws of war would not make sense. There is no way to figure from this introduction how those laws would play out.

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    1. @David Ohsie

      "That's not what sophistry means. I have a right to smoke, but it is not sophistry to for people to tell me that it is a bad idea. (I don't smoke, it is just an example)."
      I don't want this debate to unravel into a discussion about my use of the word sophistry, (as far as I know, my argument is not contingent on my characterization of Rabbi Slifkin's statement as sophistic), but I will nevertheless respond. Telling people it is a bad idea is not sophistry. Presenting it as legally binding on them when in reality it is not, is. (And if it isn't, ok, you got me on my choice of wording).

      "You argued that government's right to conscript whoever they deemed necessary depended on following procedures that no longer can be followed. "
      I did NOT argue about the government's right. I wrote milchemet mitzva, that is, that besides for their right, and dina d'malchuta considerations, it is further binding on the populace because of milchemet mitzva. It was against this assumption I argued. It was a response to Rabbi Slilfkin's presentment of conscription as something that is compulsory due to the mitzva of milchement mitzva. I agree they have the right. I never implied otherwise.

      "I think that this argument is flawed and devalues halacha by making into a bunch of arbitrary rules that prevent a modern Jewish society from operating."
      Once again, per my view, there is nothing hindering the government from operating fully. They can halachically have an army. It's just not a milchemet mitzva. This distinction should be clear. Not everything that is necessary for a society to function has an express mitzva mandating it. All of your arguments do nothing but justify conscription as something that is ratzon hashem, not milchemet mitzva.
      Basically, besides for the other points I raised, I have yet to see a response why the chareidi poskim cannot take Rambam at his word, and require an actual melech, (again, not that WE cannot assume that government has filled that role, but that the chareidim are not compelled to). And since the chareidim adhere to the rulings of their own poskim, as every community is required to respectively, whether or not we assume it is a milchemet mitzva is immaterial. Their poskim have halachically argued that it is not, and this is the ruling that is incumbent on them. Therefore, in any argument that chareidim must join the draft, the argument from the milchemet mitzva standpoint is inadmissible.

      R Stefansky

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    2. R. Stefansky used "sophistry" correctly. David Ohsie did not.

      RM

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    3. @RM, AFAIK, you are incorrect. Sophistry is the intentional use of a fallacious argument to try to trick someone into accepting your point. The fact that the other side has a possible or even valid defense to your argument does not make your argument into sophistry.

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  33. In any event, we just saw in the Daf Yomi in masechet Sota that those who are exempted from military service in a milchemet reshut (not our situation today which is milchemet mitzvah) because they got married or they built a house or planted a vineyard or that they were "fearful' still had to serve the army behind the lines, so the claim that certain groups are completely exempt from that form of national service is not based on those exemptions.

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  34. No offense, but there is a kind of theoretical and divorced-from-reality quality to this discussion so far. While it is good & proper to cite this massechet and that gaon, let's not forget that we are talking about real families & real people here. Rav Shafran, those haredi poskim who pour such vitriol on IDF servce and some of those here should try preaching their Torah-as-vehicle-for-claiming-privilege elitism to a family sitting shiva because their son/father/husband was killed defending the country they pay lip service to and which protects them. Let the wife whose husband comes home every night and who risks nothing other than splinters in his backside tell the wife whose husband is Hashem-knows-where risking his life and whom she may not see again, that their husbands are alike & are contributing equally. The denigration of, and flight away from, IDF service משניא את התורה על העם and is an unparalleled chilul Hashem. Do those who spurn IDF service while demanding taxpayer-funded subsidies have to wonder why they are the objects of such scorn??!!

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    1. This is true. I have both Anglo Charedi Lite and Israeli Dati Leumi in my family. Even a non-condescending Charedi IDF-exemption argument does not sit well with the D"L.

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    2. This I think is the problem. Since it does not sit well with us, we have a priori decided that there must be a halachic obligation which compels the charedim to join the army. This is similar to to a fault of the charedi establishment that R Slfikin has consistently pointed out. Namely, deciding on a position and then searching for halachic rationale to back it up. This intellectual dishonesty causes my soul to ache. You are right, Northward Bound, it is not advisable to start explaining to a grieving mother that technically speaking there is nt mitzva of milchemet mitzva and therefore the draft dodging charedim were not in express violation of halacha. But, here, in one of the last vestiges of open, honest dialogue, which R Slifkin has been so gracious to provide, a quest for the truth of the matter is a worthy endeavor.
      R Stefansky

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    3. Let's grant R. Stefansky's point, that chareidm have a right to perform their own halachic analysis and conclude that it is not milchemes mitzvah. But does anyone seriously think that this is what they did? That they halachically assessed the issue? They haven't performed any kind of halachic analysis. And if they did, it would be with the clear goal of reaching a predetermined conclusion.

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    4. As someone wrote to me: "In the introduction to Aim Habanim Smaicha, Rav Teichtal ZT"L HY"D, writes that he knows people will put him down for his positive orientation towards the Zionist movement. He is totally fine with the challenges to his position, and will deal with them all-on one condition; that they are presented like any other Sugya and responsa, with sources, analyses, logical conclusion, in the classic style of any respected Shut. Here too, let the questioner present a proper shut from a gadol on this topic explaning his position based on the sources. those who hold it is a mitzvah to join ZAHAL have writtwn on the topic. Rav Aharaon Lichtenstien ZT"L wrote a famous Shut on the topic in techumin 6 (Zot Torat Hahesder). Yeshivat Karnai Shomron put out an impressive 25th anniversary volume years ago, with a beautiful article entitled "Hesder Lechatchila." There is a saifer "Giyus Khalacha." Of course, the list goes on." Have there been halachic analyses from the other side, or have we just heard "Daas Toyrah"?

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    5. I don't think Northwood Bound's point has been emphasized enough.

      Even if one accepts that Torah study is as efficacious as serving in the armed forces (and I'm in no position to say if it is or is not), the level of sacrifice is not remotely comparable. In fact, for many Torah study is no sacrifice at all, it's exactly what they would want to be doing if they could choose.

      To function, the army may require a certain number of payroll clerks who get to work from 9-5 in safe office buildings. But there would be justifiable protest if, say, all children of judges and Knesset members got to be the payroll clerks, and everyone else was assigned combat roles. To say that they are all serving necessary functions for the safety of the medina and its populace is hardly an adequate response.

      RM

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    6. "The reason is that they fear the threat that army service would pose to their way of life."

      Really, this is perfectly obvious. The explanation that their Torah provides protection is the explanation why staying out of the army should be acceptable, not the reason in and of itself. I believe you've served up something of a straw argument.

      RM

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    7. Rabbi Slifkin – I’d look at chareidi periodocals such as ישורון, if they still print that. If they indeed haven’t responded, I’d guess it was because to them it is so פשוט that the criterion of melech has not been fulfilled by the Israeli government, it seemed unnecessary to compose a תשובה about it.
      R Stefansky

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    8. Even if defense of Israel is not a Milchemet Mitzvah, only a person with no heart could say that its OK to demand protection while offering nothing of value in return. The only logical conclusion is that Charedim are heartless.

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    9. To RM:
      Yes, it has been reported in the newspapers that sons of powerful influential people are magically assigned very "cushy" IDF jobs far away from the battlefield. Mr. Lapid who calls for drafting the Chreidim was in the Army radio division--which is not the same as Army intelligence or Army communication!

      To Avi:
      Perhaps there is another alternative.
      Perhaps if given a venue which is run by Chareidim and Daas Torah from begining to end--like serving as fire-fighters-- the Chareidim would indeed show their heart and volunteer in droves.
      The widespread suspicion among Chareidim is that the IDF is run by people who want to make them less chareidi and more mainstream Israeli. Not feeling obligated to commit cultural/religious suicide for the sake of protecting others is not being heartless.
      Give them a venue by which they can protect/save lives on their terms without commiting cultural/religious suicide and I'm confident the Chareidim will rise to the occasion.

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  35. With all due respect, not going to the army is shev v'al ta'asah. And it is currently Israeli law as well (or maybe not, I don't know).

    You don't need to justify a shov v'al ta'seh halachicaly. It is the onus of those who wish to impose conscription to provide sources, both in halochoh and under human rights (restriction of liberty and security).

    I have no doubt that every proof brought Rav Aharon Lichtenstien can be rebutted, and each of those rebuttals can be rebutted and so on, that is the way of torah.

    But in the mean time, the chareidim are entitled to be shav v'al ta'aseh, if they wish.

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    1. What bugs me is the hypocrisy of those charedim who do not serve in the IDF (or even do national civilian service). The state's army is treif but the state's money is not? My wife & I work very hard just to keep our heads above water. I served in the IDF & our eldest son is in the IDF now. It rankles me that I am forced to subsidize those who do not serve. They should at least be consistent. If they want nothing to do with the state's army (which protects them as much it does me), they ought to have nothing to do with the state's funds instead of demanding ever larger subsidies. The only way to deal with poverty in the charedi sector is to encourage, and provide incentives for, a culture of work, *not* create incentives for not working (by simply increasing taxpayer-funded child sipport payments).

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  36. David Oshie - You write;

    "No, I don't think that this follows at all. If some Jewish subgroup paskened for their own subgroup that they don't have to return the lost object of all the other Jewish subgroups, then this would be invalid. In general paskening a leniency for yourself when the impact of the leniency is a stringency on others is not valid. If one of the litigants stands to lose something they also have to accept the judges. You can't just go to your own."

    You must surely be aware of the concept of gromoh (indirect causation). You may be correct, that a group cannot pasken for itself if it means an immediate stringency applying to others. But only if the stringency is direct, not a gromoh ). In this particular case the linkage is to indirect to be of significance. It is not even proven or obvious.

    Even moving on from that, it may only apply to monetary matters. If a subgroup paskens for itself that it will adopt a certain stringency in kashrus, immediately all the groups and commercial vendors not keeping that stringency will by definition lose out.

    Do you really suggest that we are obliged to rely on heter mechirah because of the damage caused because of us not relying on it to the farmers, shops and food manufacturers in Israel that do rely on it? And do you really believe only an impartial judge (not that one exists) can permit us not to rely on the heter mechira - after all plenty of talmidei chachomim have justified it. How do you distinguish?

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    1. @SB:

      First off, I'll have to concede to R. Stefansky that I am, to some degree, mixing up morality with strict halachah, especially since I am basically an Am Haaretz wrt to most halachot. Nevertheless, I'll proceed:

      There is a collective responsibility on everyone to protect the nation. Very few particularly wants to go to put off the rest of their life, serve and risk their lives, except for the fact that they feel a responsibility to do their part. For one group to decide for themselves "well we don't need to serve because we have more important things to do and all of the others will do it for us" is to shift the burden onto the others. Here is a though experiment: Could we take this approach if 95% of citizens were Charedi? Clearly this would not work. So decision is not "we think that we're exempt", but rather "we can exempt ourselves and free-ride off of others against their will". So there is a direct linkage.

      Even moving on from that, it may only apply to monetary matters. If a subgroup paskens for itself that it will adopt a certain stringency in kashrus, immediately all the groups and commercial vendors not keeping that stringency will by definition lose out.

      This is not the same thing. I have no right to your business. But I do have a right to demand that you do your portion to defend the nation.

      Do you really suggest that we are obliged to rely on heter mechirah because of the damage caused because of us not relying on it to the farmers, shops and food manufacturers in Israel that do rely on it? And do you really believe only an impartial judge (not that one exists) can permit us not to rely on the heter mechira - after all plenty of talmidei chachomim have justified it. How do you distinguish?

      Yes, I do think that those that are "Machmir" on the Heter Mechirah are actually being "Meikil" and that it not a coincidence that those who really don't concern themselves with the problems of the country as a whole are most likely to be "Machmir". Nevertheless, there is no obligation to support local farmers (well there is some, but it is limited). There is an obligation to help defend Jewish blood and there unilaterally saying that "you guys take care of it, we exempt ourselves" is very problematic.

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  37. There is a factual issue that needs elaboration. One can argue what's the "real reason" as by other things(see taharas hamishpacha example, below), but the Moetzes and RAF *do* mention the protective aspect of Torah, so R. Shafran is following the Moetzes -agree with it or not.

    (As above, Moetzes in a 2/20/13 statement mentions "The perseverance and security of Hashem’s people are rooted in its dedication to Torah study, as Chazal comment on the posuk “Our feet were standing at your gates, Yerushalayim...” ; R. Aharon Feldman also mentioned learning Torah in the essay quoted above, "Learning Torah ensures the survival of the Jewish people; it has done so for thousands of years")

    Criticism of R. Shafran's explanation--assuming R. Betzalel Cohen in Mishpacha is correct--might be compared to not explaining all opinions about Taharas Hamishpacha to beginners(see discussion in "Communications", Tradition, Winter 2010 by R. Dr. Shlomo Spiro, "...My essay is not intended as a manual for young couples to convince them that when engaged in according to halakha can be even more beautiful. Such attempts dress the laws of nidda in attractive ideas to promote observance, which is a noble undertaking. However, when studying and explaining the Torah, the whole truth is the only value.)

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  38. R Slifkin and Ephraim,
    R Chaim David Halevi makes a very convincing argument inשו"ת עשה לך רב ח"ג סי' נ"ח that Rambam is referring to milchemet mitzva as well.

    פיטור שבט לוי
    ומטעם זה לא נמנה מטה לוי, כי לא ילכו בצבא המלחמה, אלא הפקד אותם על משכן העדות (רשב"ם שם פסוק מז). אך לעומת זאת נאמר: "לא יהיה לכהנים הלוים כל שבט לוי חלק ונחלה עם ישראל, אשי ה' ונחלתו יאכלון" (דברים יח א)2. מי שאינו יוצא למלחמה דין הוא שלא ינחל מנחלת הכיבוש ואף לא בביזה. או יותר נכון, מי שאינו נוחל בארץ, ומקדיש עצמו לעבודת בית ה', אינו מן הדין שיצא למלחמה.
    וזו לשון הרמב"ם (הל' שמיטה ויובל פי"ג ה"י): "כל שבט לוי מוזהרים שלא ינחלו בארץ כנען. וכן הם מוזהרים שלא יטלו חלק בביזה בשעה שכובשים את הערים, שנאמר: 'לא יהיה לכהנים הלוים כל שבט לוי חלק ונחלה עם ישראל'. חלק בביזה ונחלה בארץ, וכן הוא אומר: 'בארצם לא תנחל וחלק לא יהיה לך בתוכם בביזה'. ולמה לא זכה לוי בנחלת ארץ - ישראל ובביזתה עם אחיו? מפני שהובדל לעבוד את ה' ולשרתו ולהורות דרכיו הישרים ומשפטיו הצדיקים לרבים, שנאמר: 'יורו משפטיך ליעקב ותורתך לישראל'. לפיכך הובדלו מדרכי העולם: לא עורכין מלחמה כשאר ישראל, ולא נוחלין, ולא זוכין לעצמם בכח גופן; אלא הם חיל השם, שנאמר: 'ברך ה' חילו', והוא ברור הוא זוכה להם" (שם הי"ב).
    והלכה גדולה וחשובה זו, ששבט לוי פטור מיציאה למלחמה, היא פשוטה וברורה במקראות, ואעפי"כ פרטיה טעונים בירור.

    מלחמת מצוה ורשות
    כיון שנתבאר מן המקרא שממלחמת כיבוש הארץ היו פטורים, ברור איפוא שמכל מלחמות - מצוה היו פטורים. ומבואר באותם שחוזרים ממערכות המלחמה, אשר בנה בית ולא חנכו, נטע כרם ולא חללו, אירש אשה ולא לקחה, וכן הירא ורך הלבב - שכל זה במלחמת הרשות, אבל במלחמת מצוה "הכל יוצאים אפילו חתן מחדרו וכלה מחופתה" (סוטה מד ב). "ואיזו היא מלחמת מצוה?,,, שבעה עממים ומלחמת עמלק ועזרת ישראל מיד צר שבא עליהם; ומלחמת הרשות היא המלחמה שנלחם עם שאר העמים כדי להרחיב גבול ישראל ולהרבות בגדולתו ושמעו" (רמב"ם הל' מלכים פ"ה ה"א). מכאן, שגם ממלחמת הגנה מיד צר ואויב היו שבט לוי פטורים, שהרי גם היא בגדר מלחמת - מצוה כמלחמת כיבוש הארץ שהיו פטורים ממנה.
    ואף שאפשר היה לחלק שדוקא ממלחמת כיבוש הארץ המפורשת במקרא היו פטורים מפני שלא נטלו חלק בה, אבל במלחמת הגנה היה מקום לחייבם, שכן על עצמם וחייהם היו לוחמים - אלא שאין לזה כל יסוד בהלכה, ואף נראה שאין חילוק זה נכון ביסודו, שהרי הגם שלא נטלו חלק בחלוקת הארץ בגורל כיתר השבטים, אבל נתנו להם ערים לשבתם ומגרשים "לבהמתם ולרכושם ולכל חיתם" (במדבר לה ג), ומשום כך היה ראוי שיילחמו. ועוד, שגם מלחמת כיבוש הארץ היה בה סיכון ככל מלחמת הגנה "מיד צר שבא עליהם", שהרי אם יכשלו ישראל במלחמת כיבוש הארץ תהא נשקפת סכנה גם לחיי שבט לוי - ובכל זאת היו פטורים מאותה מלחמה, והטעם האמתי הוא זה כדברי הרמב"ם: "מפני שהובדל לעבוד את ה' ולשרתו ולהורות דרכיו הישרים", וטעם זה יפה כוחו לפטור גם ממלחמת מגן "מיד צר שבא עליהם".
    אדרבא, מלשון הרמב"ם נראה ששני הדברים, ר"ל זה שאינם נוחלים בארץ, וזה שאינם עורכין מלחמה, שניהם מטעם שהובדלו לעבודת ה', שכן הוא כותב: "ולמה לא זכה לוי בנחלת ארץ ישראל,,, מפני שהובדל לעבוד את ה',,, לפיכך (ר"ל, מטעם זה עצמו שהובדלו לעבודת ה') הובדלו מדרכי העולם: לא עורכין מלחמה",,, וברור, ששני הדברים נובעים מאותו הטעם, ואין אחד מהם תוצאה ממשנהו, ולכן גם ממלחמת מצוה מסוג הגנה מצר ואויב מטעם זה הם פטורים.
    ועוד ראיה ברורה ומכרעת ממה שפוסק הרמב"ם שם הי"א: "יראה לי, שאין הדברים אמורים אלא בארץ שנכרתה עליה ברית לאברהם ליצחק וליעקב וירשוה בניהם ונתחלקה להם, אבל שאר כל הארצות שכובש מלך מלכי ישראל הרי הכהנים והלוים באותן הארצות ובביזתן ככל ישראל". משמע שבכיבושי חו"ל נוחלים על אף אי השתתפותם במלחמה, שהרי בהלכה שלאחריה כתב בסתם שאין הלוים "עורכים מלחמה כשאר ישראל", משמע שום מלחמה לא בכיבוש הארץ ולא בכיבוש שאר ארצות. מכאן, שאין כל קשר בין אי - התנחלותם בארץ לבין פיטורם ממערכות המלחמה, אלא הטעם הוא מפני שהובדלו לעבודת ה'.
    See also R Efraim Fishel Weinberger in Yad Efraim Shut 11.
    R Stefansky

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  39. I really don't see why this argument is convincing. For example, the statement "כיון שנתבאר מן המקרא שממלחמת כיבוש הארץ היו פטורים" is not clear. See the Radak on שמואל ב, כג::כ.
    I also would add the attempt to equate Levi'im with Torah scholars in this regard is also problematic, since we know that the greatest Torah scholars did go to war: יהושע, עתניאל and עדינו העצני- if we equate Levi'im with Torah scholars we should also assume that they went to war as well.
    There are two linchpins to his argument: 1) that Levi'im didn't fight in the wars to conquer the land from the Seven Nations- a claim that is not clear. 2) That all Torah scholars are equivalent to Levi'im as defined by the Rambam. The last claim is disputed by the Radbaz, מעשה רקח, מהרי"ץ חיות, the נצי"ב, Rav Kaniesky & Rav Ahron Kotler.

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