Letter to Yated
To the Editor:
In “The Identity of the Israeli People is at Stake - Understanding the Current Situation in Eretz Yisroel" (Wednesday, May 08, 2013), Rabbi Moshe Meiselman cites the Netziv as stating that the greatest defense of the country is our learning of Torah. To this it can be added that in Haamek Davar to Bereishis 49:14, Netziv notes that the tribe of Yissacher were not suited to war, and studied Torah instead.
However, Rabbi Meiselman omitted to mention the Netziv's views regarding those who are defending Eretz Yisrael with their Torah. In Haamek Davar to Devarim 33:18 he notes that they must actually accompany the soldiers to study Torah and pray at the front line (presumably either because the protective force of Torah is geographically concentrated, or in order to boost the morale of the soldiers). This is in marked contrast to the charedi community, which never sends any Torah scholars to the front lines, and in fact evacuated yeshivos during the Gaza conflict from the South to Bet Shemesh and Bnei Brak.
Furthermore, in Haamek Davar to Bereishis 49:15, Netziv states that Torah scholars who do not serve in the army must pay higher monetary taxes to support the military. He also states that they are to be available for whatever purposes the nation requires (i.e. some sort of national service).
This is fascinating, in light of Netziv's belief that learning Torah provides the primary protection. If they are providing the primary protection, why do they have to pay higher military tax and provide other services to the nation? Perhaps the Netziv recognized that you can't claim to be sharing the burden when you're not putting yourself out in a way that meaningfully matches the sacrifices made by others.