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Did Charedim Enable Recent Tragedies?
I wouldn't have thought so, but Rav Edelstein says otherwise
In the last few weeks, there have been a number of tragedies in Israel. There was the terrible murders of Lucy, Maia and Rina Dee. There was a young man from Beit Shemesh who was killed in an ATV accident. There were two people killed in a flash flood. And there were other tragedies, too.
A statistical analysis would presumably demonstrate that all this is nothing anomalous. Tragedies happen; sometimes there are more and sometimes there are less. However, Rav Gershon Edelstein, the venerable leading “Daas Torah” of the Litvishe charedi world and the spiritual head of the Degel HaTorah party, says otherwise.
In a lecture delivered to many thousands of people, Rav Edelstein said that there has been a spike in tragedies due to it being bein hazmanim, yeshivah vacation. And since less Torah was being learned, there was less of a merit for protection. The yeshivah students were learning less Torah, and so people died.
Rav Edelstein is not the first rabbinic authority to correlate the protective merits of Torah to the actual times that it is being studied. Rav Steinman said the same during the events of the summer of 2011. And in the summer of 2006, Rav Elyashiv and others called for cancelling that vacation altogether. But nobody seems to think about the implications of this viewpoint, which are quite staggering.
On numerous occasions, most recently in my post Guns, Terrorism and Torah, I’ve discussed the charedi beliefs about Torah protecting. Traditionally, there was a belief that Torah study, when done appropriately, is a general merit for the nation. However, charedim take this much further and claim that there is a direct protection from harm created specifically by the Torah study of charedi yeshiva students which is so significant that it justifies their not serving in the IDF.
This protective benefit of Torah is further claimed to be spatially concentrated, i.e. to be most effective in the city where the yeshivos are located. But as I’ve demonstrated from the fact that charedi yeshivos fled the south during the Gaza operations rather than flocking there to provide additional protection, either charedim don’t actually believe this, or they shirk their responsibilities to use their Torah to protect their brethren.
What is true for space is also true for time.
If the charedi community genuinely believes that their yeshivos provide essential protection for the nation during the time that this Torah is studied, then what on earth is the justification for there to ever be such a thing as bein hazmanim - or even for the daily routine?!
The IDF does not have vacation periods! It functions 24/7, every day of the year. To be sure, individual soldiers get breaks, which is essential for their wellbeing and effective service. But the schedule is carefully arranged such that at any given time, the majority of IDF personnel are in active duty. There are no month-long vacations for the majority of the armed forces simultaneously. There are plenty of personnel on active duty all through the night, every night of the year. And the reason for all this is perfectly obvious. Since the IDF really does provide protection, you can’t have them significantly take a break from that. Lives are at stake!
Mimah nafshach. If the charedim really do believe that their Torah provides spatially and temporally concentrated protection, then the schedule of the yeshivah system shows that they are deserting their duties and causing deaths. And if they don’t really believe that (which in my view is likely the case), then they should stop using that as an excuse not to enlist in the IDF. It’s as simple as that.
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