"Every Tehillim is a Bullet"
Is this something to be taken seriously?
As we’ve seen, there are significant differences of opinion in the charedi world as to whether one should show concern for soldiers and gratitude to them. But there’s one thing upon which everyone in the charedi world professes to agree: that having tens of thousands of charedim in yeshivah is crucial to winning the war. That’s why it would be terrible to take any of them out to serve or even to help with any material or political efforts.
For some, this means that yeshiva students provide a crucial merit for winning, unobtainable from everyone else; for others, this means that they are the ones actually fighting the forces of evil, and the soldiers are just engaged in a sham hishtadlus. But either way, it means that yeshivah students get some or all of the credit for the bullets and bombs that the IDF fires. Agudas Yisrael publicized the words of one rabbinic authority who spells out what this means:
“Every Blatt Gemara is a missile, every Tosafos is a rocket, every Kapitel Tehillim is a bomb.” I’ve heard some caustic rejoinders about what every charedi Gadol is. But in fact Rav Oelbaum is just elaborating upon normative charedi belief.
Rav Aharon Feldman says the same. Or at least, very similar. In his talk about why one should be wary of glorifying soldiers, he stresses that one should impress upon children that every Tehillim is “like a bullet in an Arab’s head.” (It’s not clear to me if he’s saying that this is the genuine reality, or just something to tell children. It sounds a bit like the latter, but then it’s not clear why it wouldn’t be something to tell adults, as Rav Oelbaum and the Agudah claim. And so I think he means it seriously.)
Note that there appears to be a difference of opinion between Rav Oelbaum and Rav Feldman as to the degree of efficacy of Tehillim. Is every Tehillim as powerful as a bomb, or merely as powerful as a lethal bullet? However, this dispute in metziyus should be possible to resolve; one could just count the number of Hamas fatalities, divide it by the estimated number of chapters of Tehillim that have been recited worldwide, and thereby calculate the efficacy of each one.
But I’m getting sidetracked. The point is that the Rabbonim are clear that the Torah and Tehillim of charedi yeshiva students directly function as weapons against Hamas, just as they directly function to help sick Jews. And what I want to focus upon is a supposedly funny story that Rav Aharon Feldman proceeds to tell with amusement. He relates that after teaching a group of students about how saying a chapter of Tehillim is like firing a bullet, one of them came over to him and asked, “Can I choose which Arab to kill?” Rav Feldman laughs and laughs, and his entire audience laughs along with him.
But why on earth are they laughing?
Isn't that exactly what their professed worldview means?
Rav Feldman (and the Agudah) are saying that learning Torah and reciting Tehillim are an exact replacement for firing weapons. Had the student asked whether he can davven for the death of a specific terrorist (presumably because he was responsible for a specific terror attack), the answer would presumably have been a serious yes. After all, that is a traditional part of Judaism, just as we davven for specific people to be healed. So why is it funny when he asks if he can designate his “Tehillim bullet” for a specific terrorist?
I’m pretty sure that I know the explanation of why they are laughing. But I’d like to hear what others think.
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