Thursday, February 6, 2020

Does Our Existence Depend on the IDF or on Torah?

A few months ago, I posted an essay from Rav Eliezer Melamed about the importance of serving in the IDF. An anonymous commentator just submitted the following comment on an old post:
It amazes me once again that the author continues to hold by the common misconception in the Modern Orthodox community that while Torah learning is a mitzvah, serving in the IDF is a much greater one because Israel's existence depends on it. Does Am Yisroel's existence not depend on Torah learning as well? Is Torah learning not the basis of the existence of the Jewish people?

How many people can see the enormous fatal flaw in his argument? If you don't see it, take a moment to think before reading further.

Here goes!

Mr. Anonymous is committing the common fallacy of using the term "Torah" in an ambiguous way. Yes, Am Yisroel's existence depends on Torah learning as well - in fact, more so than it depends on the IDF (since the IDF only ensures the survival of Jews in Israel, whereas Torah is the lifeblood of the Jewish People everywhere). However, Am Yisroel's existence does not depend on the particular Torah learning of charedi men who are currently receiving a draft deferral. There are plenty of other people learning Torah - including people who are in the IDF!!!

Now, of course you could also make the same argument about Israel depending on the IDF - that it doesn't depend on particular service of 40,000 charedim. Indeed it doesn't. But that's not the point. The point is that since in general Israel requires an army, and in general it is a mitzvah to participate and share this responsibility, there is no reason for charedi yeshiva students to get a deferral.


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35 comments:

  1. While studying Torah is critical to the continued existence of the Jewish people, devoting one's entire life to the study of Torah, to the exclusion of all other activities is not.

    Anybody who believes one must choose between Torah study and serving in the army is making a false choice. There is no reason why a Jew can't choose to do both, even if it means he can't study Torah during every waking moment of his life.

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  2. I dunno... I have no problem believing that people willing to risk their lives and work like dogs for the sake of the Jewish People in Israel have more zekhus and are doing more metaphysically to change the country than people who learn.

    Especially if we accept the Yerushalmi's discussion of whether Torah needs to be al menas lelameid vs al menas la'asos, and most of the learning going on today is neither. Nor do many learners match the same work ethic as Tzahal demands. Certainly not mesiras nefesh.

    And, "kol hamezakeh es harabbim, zekhus harabbim noteil alav -- homever benefits / brings zekhus to the masses, the zekhus of the masses rests upon him."

    So I think on a straight sekhar va'onesh level, it is likely serving does more to earn Hashem's protection than learning does.

    More than that of the typical kollelnik, but learning altogether even without the homonymity this post points out.

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    Replies
    1. The old question - especially if talmud torah is greater than all other mitzvot, why isn't one who is learning patur from all other mitzvot?
      KT
      Joel Rich

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    2. Well, you could even ask the same if the central mitzvah is chessed.

      It's like a recipe. Meat may be the largest component of your recpie, but you don't want to eat it plain without the potatoes, spices, and marinate.

      Whatever is most important, that doesn't mean everything else has no import at all!

      In any case, R Shimon Shkop's model is that we need to take care of ourselves spiritually in order to be more capable of providing benefit to others.

      In my book I liken it to the farmer who owns the goose that lays the golden eggs. He might even spend most of his time caring for the goose rather than collecting the eggs. But it is all about maximizing the number and size of the golden eggs collected.

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  3. If the form of talmud Torah is coming from an immature and ignorant place, then I'd argue that this form of talmud Torah is not what our existence depends upon. Therefore, seeing that the opinion that "you only need talmud Torah to protect us" is an immature and poorly thought out approach, I'd be suspicious that the "lomdei Torah" harbouring this approach are practicing a form of Talmud Torah that is not providing any effective protection of our nation

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  4. Nachmanides felt that there are “hidden miracles.” For example, a falling leaf. The great sage felt that no leaf fell from a tree unless G-d decreed: “fall, keep falling, keep falling, keep falling, stop, now lay still.”

    Maimonides disagreed. He felt that it is not ”through the interference of divine providence that a certain leaf falls [from a tree], nor do I hold that when a certain spider catches a certain fly, that this is the direct result of a special decree and will of G-d due that moment… In all these cases the action is, according to my opinion, entirely due to chance, as taught by Aristotle…"

    He does admit that a sinking ship is due to sin, however Rabbi Micah Goodman explains that this is one of the contradictions of the "Seventh kind." What Maimonides really meant was that people have divine providence (their intelligence that G-d gave them) to avoid a Titanic if she looks like she's about to sink.

    Nachmanides was convinced that G-d determines the outcome of all wars. One might cite the ark at Jerico, but this was an earthquake. In short, Jews should not rely on G-d to perform a miracle nor expect the Torah to protect them. The Torah is a philosophical guide to life. The Torah teaches truths about G-d and helps improve people and society. It is not a magical book. True, the Torah is our culture and it has kept Jews together for thousands of years, but only the IDF will save Israel in a time of war.

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    Replies
    1. That is not Ramban's view.

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    2. The Rambam writes that for Klal Yisrael, the world is directed according to sechar ve'onesh and not by natural means. Nothing about individual leaves falling, which (as far as I know) is a chassidic idea.

      Delete
    3. The Titanic hit an iceberg. It was no more likely to sink than any other ship.

      There was no way for any passenger buying tickets on Flight 1549 to know that it would hit birds or that the captain would be able to land on the Hudson.

      There was no way for Marie Curie, with all her intelligence, to know that the radiation from her research would kill her. If she'd been less intelligent, she wouldn't have done the research in the first place and probably would have lived longer.

      Extra intelligence can help you live longer. It can't save you from a sinking ship.

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    4. Possibly if your philosophical and religious sensibilities are at a sufficiently high level you ask questions such as:
      1. How many lifeboats does this ship have?
      2. Is there a plan for a disaster? What will happen if a disaster strikes?

      If you are not satisfied with the answers you don't go.

      Perhaps in general anytime one puts one's well being in danger one might ask is the risk worth the reward?

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    5. @Shlomo

      Ramban did believe in "hidden miracles." In Nachmanides' commentary to Genesis 17:1, 46:15, Exodus 13:16, and Leviticus 26:11 he admits that the world does not function through the laws of nature. He writes:

      “From [belief in] large perceptible miracles one [comes to believe] in hidden miracles, which are the very foundation of the entire Torah. A person has no share in the Torah of Moses our teacher until he believes that all that occurs is the result of miracles, not the laws of nature. … Everything happens by divine decree.”

      Thus, according to Nachmanides, doctors are unnecessary.

      @Unknown

      You are correct that Rambam's ideas are not Chassidic. In fact, most of them, if not all of them, would be contrary to Chassidic teachings if they carefully studied Rambam, as scholars do.

      @CY

      Yes, no one knew the Titanic would sink or that Flight 1549 would crash into a flight of birds. However, people with a higher level of intelligence (more divine providence) have a better chance to differentiate hazardous moments, for example, an intelligent person usually avoids driving fast, which could result in an accident. As Rabbi Goodman says in his Maimonides book, if a saint and a murderer jumps off a cliff, the laws of gravity will not discriminate and both will brake a leg. Its not guaranteed, that Marie Curie will survive or that Sully would land on the Hudson safely, but the odds are much greater.

      Delete
    6. Correction,

      @Unknown

      Ramban did believe in "hidden miracles." In Nachmanides' commentary to Genesis 17:1, 46:15, Exodus 13:16, and Leviticus 26:11 he admits that the world does not function through the laws of nature. He writes:

      “From [belief in] large perceptible miracles one [comes to believe] in hidden miracles, which are the very foundation of the entire Torah. A person has no share in the Torah of Moses our teacher until he believes that all that occurs is the result of miracles, not the laws of nature. … Everything happens by divine decree.”

      Thus, according to Nachmanides, doctors are unnecessary.

      Delete
  5. ואנשי חיל הם אבירי הלב בשלימות הבטחון כולו לעשות מצות תמיד ולהגות בתורה
    יום ולילה, אף שבביתו אין לחם ושמלה, ובניו ובני ביתו יצעקו לו: ”הבה לנו מחיה
    להחיינו ולפרנסנו!“ ואינו משגיח עליהם כלל, ולקולם לא יחת... והוא כי בטלו כל
    אהבותיו נגד אהבת ה׳ ותורתו ומצותיו.
    (ביאור הגר״א – משלי כג:ל)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's quite a bit more on this subject over at the Dass Torah blog (http://daattorah.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-real-talmid-chachom-needs-to-be-cruel.html), though even after all that it still seems like something that's a hard way to go.

      Delete
  6. "However, Am Yisroel's existence does not depend on the particular Torah learning of charedi men who are currently receiving a draft deferral"
    of course not. DL men should also be pursuing torah learning as an ideal, and chiloni men are obligated to become religious and pursue torah learning as well. but since these groups are (on the whole) failing in their duties, klall yisroel is left depending on the charedi minority that (at least as an ideal) upholds the primacy of torah study.
    there is a good reason why the DL world (at least those who are sincere in their religiosity) rely primarily on charedi poskim, baaley hashkafa, etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lol sincere DL people do not rely on charedi poskim there's no shortage of DL poskim and similarly no one DL I know relies primarily on charedi baaley haskhafa (may occasionally find an idea they like there, why not). You probably use "sincere" to filter out the entire frum DL world except for the handful who are sufficiently charedi for you to approve of, a tiny minority...

      Delete
  7. The point is that since in general Israel requires an army,

    Real-life self-gaslighting in action. Lots of countries require an army. Very few require everyone to sign up for three years because this is an obviously completely inefficient way to run an army.

    and in general it is a mitzvah to participate and share this responsibility,

    It is a mitzvah to expel enemies from our land. It is not a mitzvah to serve in the Oslo Defence Forces. Some of the things you might end up doing int he army are mitzvot, some are aveirot and most are just neutral.

    there is no reason for charedi yeshiva students to get a deferral.

    Charedi yeshivas are 90% timewasting, but, in principle, one can imagine a lost more useful things to do with your life than be in the army and learning Torah is one of them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "It is a mitzvah to expel enemies from our land. It is not a mitzvah to serve in the Oslo Defence Forces."

      Really! Do you hold it's not a mitzvah to be an armed guard in a synagogue, school or other public place?

      Delete
    2. I said: "Some of the things you might end up doing in the army are mitzvot, some are aveirot and most are just neutral". Your's is an example of the first case.

      Although, with that said, no-one has yet claimed it's an hovah on everyone to sign up for three years as a security guard. No doubt, however, if the Keneset passed a law, DL zombies would find some reason to claim as much. Hell, if the Israeli government mandated we all wear underpants on our head at 3.00 on Tuesdays, 5 minutes later DL Rabbis would be imploring us to uphold this fundamental pillar of the Torah.

      Delete
    3. It is a mitzvah to expel enemies from our land.

      You must have a different Torah than the one we got from Moshe.

      Delete
    4. @Avi

      Really, you want to go down this road? Have some shame.

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    5. This is clearly the Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael both as espoused by Ramban and as appears in Shoftim. The IDF would more appropriately be named ISF if it really concentrated on eradicating our enemies rather than on protecting citizens from them

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    6. What self-obsessed and self-righteous Jewish sect do you belong to? Or are you just a Kach keyboard warrior?

      Delete
  8. I suspect if one really believed that our existence depended on learning Torah, he wouldn't have such an issue with the deferrals. Imagine the two things Israel was dependent on were army service and medical research (instead of Torah learning). Do you really think people would be upset if there was a segment of people - who specialized in medical research - who fully dedicated themselves to this crucial medical research instead of army service? I highly doubt it would be such an issue.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sure, but only the people with the best medical/creative minds as determined by some metric, who were most likely to make crucial advances in such research would be exempt from basic IDF duty. Not everyone who belonged to a certain "medical clan", or who chose to read biology textbooks all day, even if their talent wasn't particularly great.

      Delete
    2. Your suggestion works in the natural world. But not in the miraculous world of Torah. See Brachot 17b.:

      שמעו אלי אבירי לב הרחוקים מצדקה רב ושמואל ואמרי לה רבי יוחנן ורבי אלעזר חד אמר כל העולם כולו נזונין בצדקה והם נזונין בזרוע וחד אמר כל העולם כולו נזונין בזכותם והם אפילו בזכות עצמן אין נזונין

      And see Rashi there as well.

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    3. It's flawed analogy. Charedim aren't claiming that it's Torah experts who protect - they claim it's the act of learning Torah. But Torah learning takes place outside of charedi yeshivos!

      Delete
    4. I don't see why it is flawed. I understand learning takes place outside of charedi yeshivos, but I am arguing that if we really believed our existence depends on it, we wouldn't so confident to rely just on that learning.We would be happy to err on the side of caution (much more learning) to be sure we continue to exist. Especially if we felt the other existential component wouldn't be compromised - which you agree to in the last paragraph.

      Delete
    5. @Anonymous
      I disagree. If your survival depends on it, you can't rely on such a small group. What if those creative minds aren't interested in medical research? You need to have a system set up that ensures you have continuous significant participation in the research. This way you are pretty much guaranteed to always produce top notch people in the field. The fact that many aren't top notch is just a small price to pay since this is ensuring survival.

      Delete
    6. Well, in the case of medical research, one might imagine a system of assessment and standards. So while research cannot "force" a breakthrough, an institution that DOES produce results - whether in the form of medicine, journal articles, technology, or even a patentable idea that might not be actually useful for 2 decades as the tech catches up - should be given higher priority than one that does not. The latter would then be perceived as a facility exclusively for draft-dodgers.

      One has this problem, unfortunately with almost all Torah institutions (and it's certainly a concern levied against MO institutions as well): has the system been able to replicate itself? Have we created the next generation of solid poskim? Or Gedolim?

      Delete
  9. "since the IDF only ensures the survival of Jews in Israel"

    While I agree with your overall assessment, only Hashem ensures the survival of Jews. The IDF is appropriate hishtadlus but can ensure nothing.

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  10. The better response to your commenter is that those in the army are LIVING Torah, and the entire purpose of learning Torah is to be able to live it. Of course we all know there are entire libraries on this subject, but when all the dialectics are cleared away, what I said remains as fundamentally true.

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  11. One thing our existence depends on is Jews that work on their Middos. Not ones who spend their lives harping on issues because they were burned, rightly or wrongly, in the past.

    It is high time to grow up and move on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. While you are probably right, you have to realize it's a lot easier said than done.
      I personally recommend R' Dr. Abraham J Twersky's book Forgiveness
      Product Description
      Someone steps on your toe and apologizes; you forgive him. But what if someone steps on your ego? On your bank account? On your life?
      Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski - beloved author, talmid chacham, and psychiatrist - shows us how vitally important it is to sincerely forgive those who have hurt us.

      In Forgiveness we learn:

      Why forgiving someone can be the greatest gift you can make - to yourself.
      What forgiveness is - and what it isn't.
      Practical, sensible, and most important, doable steps to bring about true forgiveness.
      How to know if your forgiveness is sincere or if you are still harboring deep resentment.
      Rage and resentment weigh us down; forgiveness lets us cast off those burdens and be the people we really want to be.

      Delete
    2. "learn to love," it sounds like you are burned by the truth. We won't stop saying it just because of that, though.

      Delete

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