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August 3, 2015 / 18 Av, 5775
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Rabbis! Lead the Way in Battle!

The Rabbis of the religious Zionist community serve in the army; why shouldn’t Haredi Rabbis also be brave examples for their students?
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Photo Credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90

That’s right. The time has returned for Rabbis to lead the way in battle. That’s the way it was in the past and that’s how it should be today. Who’s better for the job – some bleeding-heart leftist commander who has too much compassion on the enemy and puts his Jewish soldiers in danger? The Rabbis know the nature of the Amalekites of our time, and understand that their evil darkness must be erased from the Earth, in order for the light of God to shine, as King David vowed, “I will pursue my enemies and come upon them, and not turn back until they are destroyed.”

We met the Amalekites in the Torah reading on Shabbat. As the newborn Nation of Israel starts its journey across the desert, Amalek attacks us out of pure hatred alone, not wanting the light of Israel to brighten the world. Moshe orders his top Torah student, Joshua, to lead the Jews into battle. Not only is Joshua the Torah genius of his generation, a round-the-clock student of Torah in Moshe’s tent, he is infused with a spirit of bravery and strength to defend the honor of the Hashem and his chosen Nation, Israel. Moshe stands on a peak overlooking the battleground and raises his hands toward the sky to remind the Israeli “Hesder” warriors to trust in Hashem, but in the midst of the fight, his arms become heavy, and Aharon and Hur must support them and keep them aloft.

Why did his hands become heavy? In punishment, as Rashi explains: “Because he was slothful in the commandment (of waging war himself) and he appointed another in his stead, so his hands became heavy.”

That’s right, my friends! Moshe Rabenu, the greatest Torah scholar of all time, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, was punished for not leading the very first Israel Defense Force battalion to war against the enemies of God!

I have more news for you, my good friends. Among the commandments of the Torah, there is a commandment to go to war against the enemies of Israel and Hashem, to defend Jewish life, and to conquer the Land of Israel and keep it under Israeli sovereignty. Faced with a war of this nature, called “Milchemet Mitzvah,” everyone goes forth to battle, including a groom from under the wedding canopy. Not only are Torah students and Rabbis included in this mitzvah, it was the great Torah giants of past, Moshe, Joshua, King David, and Rabbi Akiva, who led the way, as examples to everyone else.

Today, the Israel Defense Force is engaged in a Milchemet Mitzvah, in both of its aspects – protecting Jewish life from enemies who seek our destruction, and maintaining Israeli sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael. True, during intervals in the fight, everyone who isn’t needed at the front, goes back to learning Torah day and night, but when the battle is raging, everyone enlists. There are no exemptions.

With the formation of a new government in Israel frantically underway, political parties calling for everyone to share equally in the military burden has become the key issue. The time has come to cast off the distorted understanding of Judaism which pictures Talmidei Chachamin as weak and scrawny figures, bent over their Talmudic tomes, engaged only in spiritual pursuits, detached from their bodies and the world around them. This was appropriate during the exile in foreign lands when we were at the mercy of the goyim, without any national structure of our own, without our own Holy Land to defend, and without any arms to fight against our enemies. Today, all that has changed. With the return to our Land, the Milchemet Mitzvah of the Torah has returned in full force. Everyone is obligated to share in the battle!

Yes, the Israeli army must be made glatt kosher to meet the needs of religious soldiers. Yes, if the army can do without them, then deferrals must be granted to allow top Torah students to continue uninterrupted with their learning for six or eight years before they are drafted, because that is in the supreme defense of the Nation too. The Hesder yeshivot have proven that Torah scholars can be strong in learning and strong in battle. The Rabbis of the religious Zionist community serve in the army; why shouldn’t Haredi Rabbis also be brave examples for their students, just like Moshe, and Joshua, and King David, and lead the way in eradicating the enemies of who rise up against Israel – for the sake and betterment of humanity – that the light of true compassion and justice can shine in the world, through the annihilation of the evildoers who seek to prevent the word of God from being established on Earth.

Rabbis! Lead the way!

About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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Tzvi Fishman, author of the Jewish Press blog Felafel on Rye and author of more than a dozen books.
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