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A Retraction and Apology, and a Non-Apology
I was wrong and I'm sorry. Though not for everything.
In my post “Theodicy or Idiocy?” I criticized Rabbi Moshe Meiselman’s declaration that the Simchat Torah massacre was a punishment for the sins of secular Zionists. I also criticized his claim about there being a restoration of achdus, and I wrote that “the students of the yeshivos represented by Rabbi Meiselman are certainly not involved in any real achdus. They’re not serving in the army, they’re not doing any chesed for soldiers or their families (that’s only being done by the non-learning side of the charedi world), and they don’t even daven for the soldiers who risk their lives for us.”
This was only partially true. It is, of course, true that they don’t serve in the army. But in terms of chesed for soldiers or their families, it’s a bit more complicated. Prominent rabbinic leaders in the charedi world have condemned charedi yeshiva students doing anything for soldiers other than learning Torah. Rav Dov Landau, who is a frontrunner for beinging crowned The Gadol HaDor, extends this beyond yeshivah students to all charedim (see his letter below). However, in Rabbi Meiselman’s yeshiva, Toras Moshe, students have been encouraged by Rabbi Meiselman to participate in the blood drive for soldiers. Obviously that doesn’t compare to army service, but it’s certainly something, and therefore I was wrong to say that they are not doing any chesed.
Furthermore, with regard to my saying that they don’t even daven for the soldiers who risk their lives for us, that was only true before Simchat Torah. Since that terrible day, Rabbi Meiselman’s yeshivah (along with many others) have been reciting Tehillim, and I’m told that the messaging is clear that this is for the soldiers, even though they still do not recite the specific Misheberach for the IDF. (I do not know if there was any cheshbon hanefesh about the hundreds of soldiers who were killed before they started davenning for them.)
I have corrected the original post. However I firmly believe that when one has issued a false claim against someone, it must be corrected with the same prominence and exposure as the original defamation, which is why I am publishing a post about it. I sincerely apologize for the inaccuracies in my post. No doubt I was also influenced by my long-standing resentment over Rabbi Meiselman’s extensive slander of myself and my work in the controversy over my books, but I will hopefully learn a lesson to be more careful about not getting carried away with resentment and frustration.
Meanwhile, several other people have written to me to accuse me of a different wrongdoing. They say that at this time of devastation and war, when Klal Yisrael have come together with incredible and rare achdus, it is wrong for me to be increasing division by writing posts about the Charedi community not serving in the army.
I do not apologize for this, nor will I be stopping.
You see, I noticed something very interesting. While some people have criticized my posts, many others have applauded them, and some have even described them as the most important posts that I have ever written. And what I noticed is that, by and large, the people who criticize my posts live in the US, or are charedi. Whereas, by and large, the people who appreciate my posts are in the IDF and/or have children in the IDF.
It is, of course, easy and desirable for people to talk about there being amazing unity when they don’t really care about how the gigantic and growing charedi population avoids army service. But for those of us in communities where everyone is drafted, it’s clear that while there is amazing unity between many sectors in Israeli society, there is no real unity with the charedi sector.
With the ground invasion now starting, the next round of IDF casualties has already begun, and there will be many more. Everyone in my Dati-Leumi community is overwhelmed with grief and extreme anxiety for their loved ones. I’m davenning and crying for eighty soldiers in my shul, along with several of my nephews, while simultaneously feeling absolutely terrified about how my son is on track to join a combat unit in just over a year. But the charedi community, for the most part, is simply not experiencing this to anything like the same degree. We put our children’s lives on the line for them, and they do not do the same for us. This is not unity. And when they make constant declarations about how they are fulfilling a role of equal or greater importance, it’s just adding insult to injury.
And if there is no drastic change in charedi society, then a few years down the line, Israel could well be in serious trouble that will make the current appalling situation look mild by comparison. How would we defend ourselves in a multi-front war, against not just Hamas, but also Hezbollah and Iran and a third Intifada and an uprising among Israeli Arabs, if a third or half the population is in yeshivah and kollel? (And this is aside from the catastrophic effect that such yeshivah numbers would have on the economy, and the consequences of that for the IDF.)
Right now, when these issues are at the forefront of our minds, is the time to sound the alarm and try to make a change. Our future may depend on it.
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