When the Spies returned from Eretz Yisrael with their evil report of the Holy Land, they put ashes on their heads, sat on the ground, and began to wail out in a loud voice so that all of the congregation could hear:
“Gevalt! There are giants in the Land, and we’ll have to enlist in the army to fight them! Gevalt! Gevalt! Gevalt!”
Influenced by their dramatic cries and their flamboyant display of righteousness, the rest of the Jews joined them on the ground until a great roar was heard all over the wilderness, “GEVALT! GEVALT! GEVALT! WE’LL HAVE TO ENLIST IN THE ARMY!”
This scene came to my mind as I read this morning’s top headline in The Jewish Press: “Sack and Ashes Rally Against Haredi Draft,” with an accompanying photo of the protestors who “repeated chapters of Tehillim, verse by verse, and sat down on the ground in mourning just as Jews do on the day of Tisha B’Av.”
Funny, Tisha B’Av was the day when the Spies returned with their devastating report which brought about the death of that whole generation in the wilderness until a new, de-galuted generation of Jews born into freedom arose to conquer the Land.
The Spies were diehard adherents of galut. They wanted to remain with the Torah of galut, and sit all day learning the Torah of galut in their four cubits of the Beit Midrash of the wilderness, protected by the Clouds of Glory, eating the manna and bottled gefilte fish without have to exert themselves in any mundane matters like defending the nation and cultivating crops for food.
But the Holy One Blessed Be He wanted something else entirely for His Holy People. It was time to give up the miniaturized Torah of galut and begin to observe the complete Torah of Eretz Yisrael!! No one loves Torah more than Hashem, but nonetheless, He wanted the Spies, and all of their yeshiva students, to take up their journey, and their rifles and swords, and go up to conquer the Promised Land!! Hashem wanted them to till the fields of the Holy Land, plant seeds, and harvest their own food! He wanted them to establish a holy Torah society, not in the wilderness of galut, in a geodesic dome, protected by the Clouds of Glory, but in the hills and valleys of the Land of Israel, the Holy Land, the unique place on the globe which Hashem Himself created for the Jewish people and Torah.
Only Yehoshua ben Nun and Calev ben Yefune had the courage and faith to stand up and shout out: “NO! THE LAND IS A GOOD LAND. DON’T BE AFRAID!! JUST AS HASHEM HAS BEEN WITH US UNTIL NOW, HE WILL LEAD US TO CONQUER OUR ENEMIES!”
But the “adah” of devout and righteous Jews yelled out “GEVALT!! WE’LL HAVE TO ENLIST IN THE ARMY!!”
The Jewish Press reports that the newspaper ads calling yeshiva students to this morning’s protest in Mea Shaarim stated: “We are prepared with the utmost devotion to fight for the integrity of our holy Torah and not sacrifice any one from Israel to the military Molech.”
My dear friends, let it be as clear as the noon sun in a cloudless blue sky, without that military Molech know as the Israel Defense Forces, all of those devout holy Jews in Mea Shaarim wouldn’t survive more than ten minutes before Ishmaelite murderers stormed into their yeshivot and slit their throats from ear to ear until their blood reddened all of their pages of Gemara, just as the Arab savages did to the devout holy Jews in Hebron and the Old City during the pogrom of 1929 when there was no Israel Defense Forces to protect them.
Take a look at the photos of the pogroms yourself. True, they are black and white, but you can picture the rivers of bright crimson blood spilled all over the pages of Talmud as the devout holy Jews were butchered in the study halls of Torah that they so cherished.
Every morning after their davening, the devout holy Jews of Mea Shaarim should rush out to the streets of the city, find themselves one of those soldiers of Molech, fall down on their knees and kiss the soldier’s boots for risking his life 24 hours a day to protect the devout holy Jews of Mea Shaarim from the bloodthirsty Arabs who are just waiting for the chance to flood the streets of Mea Shaarim with glatt kosher blood.
“We don’t need your Molech army!” they say. “Torah is all we need! The Torah will protect us, not your airplanes and tanks!”
Rubbish! Nonsense! Stupidity! The Torah didn’t protect the devout holy Jews who had their throats slit open during the pogroms of yesterday, just as the Torah didn’t protect all of the millions of devout holy Jews from Nazi firing squads and gas chambers.
Dear friends, let me assure you. The devout holy Jews at the rally this morning don’t love the Torah more than I do. Yet I served in the Molech Israeli Army. My sons serve in the Molech Israeli Army. All of the Jews in the Holy Land today can live here in the Holy Land precisely because the Holy One Blessed Be He has enabled us to have our own Jewish army after being slaughtered helplessly for 2000 years in galut at the whims of the goyim.
When Moshe led the war against Amalek, he didn’t just pray on the mountain – he sent Yehoshua to lead the soldiers of the Molech Israelite Army to fight in hand-to-hand combat down below on the battlefield. Yehoshua didn’t merely blow shofars in conquering the Land, he cut off the heads of the enemy. King David, who knew a little himself about reciting Tehillim, didn’t rely on Tehillim alone when he set forth to battle, he took up his sword, flung his mini-Torah over his shoulder, and rushed forth with great joy until he had sliced all of Israel’s enemies in half! And who was a greater scholar than Rabbi Akiva? To defend the Land of Israel from the Romans, he closed his Gemorah, rushed to the battlefield, picked up Bar Kochva’s weapons himself and accompanied him into battle!!
So don’t give me the Hasidic song and dance that I’ve heard so many times, “We don’t need your Zionist army! The Torah will protect us, not your airplanes and tanks!”
Nonsense! It simply isn’t true. That isn’t Torah. That isn’t Judaism. Yes, the Torah protects us – when we study, and when we pray, and when we arm ourselves with rifles and tanks and go out to destroy the enemy!
I wholeheartedly agree that the Government of Israel must make certain that the army is revamped to meet the special needs of all of its new holy recruits. No women in their platoons and army camps. Glatt kosher food. Adequate time to pray. Regular daily Torah study.
Once all of that is in place, yalla boys! It’s a mitzvah to serve in the Israeli army! Instead of weeping in sack cloth, get up and serve Hashem with simcha! Not only is serving the army a mitzvah, it is a gigantic mitzvah of Clal Yisrael! Personally, I never felt holier than when I was wearing the green khaki uniform of Tzahal. When you are in the Israeli Army, you attach yourself to all of Clal Yisrael, to all of the Nation. Instead being a private individual person, you become a giant guardian of the Clal, cleaving to the traits of HaKodesh Baruch Hu, the Guardian of Israel, Shomer Yisrael.
Yes, dear friends, it is a very great mitzvah indeed to serve in the armies of Israel. A mitzvah from the Torah itself! That’s right. If the occasion demands, the Torah commands us to go forth to battle, to fight what is called a “Milchemet Mitzvah,” the mitzvah of war, as clearly set forth by both the Rambam and the Ramban (Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 5:1-2; Ramban, Supplement to the Sefer HaMitzvot, Positive Command 4.)
Don’t be deceived by cries of “Gevalt!” and all kinds of holy curses. The armies of Tzahal, the Israel Defense Forces – what some devout holy Jews in Mea Shaarim call Molech – is a precept of the Torah! Not only a precept – it is a double precept – in enabling us to conquer and maintain Jewish control over Eretz Yisrael, and in saving Jewish lives from enemies who rise up to kill us.
True, within the army there are many problems that need to be corrected to insure that our camp remains holy, but serving in the armies of Israel is a mitzvah of the Torah, especially now, when millions of enemies surround us, yearning to wipe Mea Shaarim off the map.
(God willing, we will continue with this important discussion tomorrow.)
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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