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April 25, 2014 / 25 Nisan, 5774
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Is Going to the IDF an Evil Decree?

The implication of such statements is that anyone who serves in the army is guilty of violating a yahorog v’al ya’avor.

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I can’t help but marvel at the sublime arrogance of those who ignore the value of the Israeli army. Not only to the survival of the state but to protection it provides to all the people that live within its borders.

Yet another article along these lines has appeared in the Haredi media. This one in Mishpacha Magazine by publisher Rabbi Moshe Grylak. Therein he extols the virtues of the tens of thousands of Yeshiva students learning Torah in Yeshivos and Kollelim throughout the land of Israel that he says are the ones truly protecting the country. It is the Torah they learn that provides the real protection. And he brings various proofs that is this is the case from the Gemarah and anecdotes from previous generations of Gedolim.

I am not here to dispute the value of learning Torah L’Shma. I am completely supportive of that most important Mitzvah. I even believe that the elite among them should be fully supported even beyond that which we support them today. Nor do I dispute the protective value of those who learn B’Hasmada Rabbah – great diligence.

What irks me is that Rabbi Grylak does something that is typical of his community. He implies that it is only Torah study that does that. The Israeli Defense Forces have nothing to do with it. Torah study is all that is needed to protect the masses from the fires of hell that would be unleashed by the very real enemies that surround them.

This is an arrogance that they can easily afford since the Israeli army is not going to disband any time soon. I’d like to see how many Lomdei Torah (full time Yeshiva and Kollel students) would be willing to live in an Israel that has no army. I think zero might be a fairly accurate guess. And yet in this article he completely rejects (by omission) the necessity of an IDF by virtue of his ‘proofs’ that all which is needed is the Kollel and the Yeshiva.

This, he says, is the view of all the Gedolei Yisroel. And that is why they oppose the draft. It is why, he explains there is so much vehement protest about it – using language not heard since the days of the State’s founding. Drafting of Haredim is a ‘G’zeiras HaShmad’ – a decree tantamount to an evil government requiring Jews to convert or die!

The implication of such statements is that anyone who serves in the army is guilty of violating a yahorog v’al ya’avor. The ultimate Kiddush HaShem: We should rather die than violate one of the 3 cardinal sins (idol worship, murder, and adultery). A G’zeiras HaShmad requires us to make that sacrifice even if forced to violate the smallest of sins.

I can’t imagine what a Hesder student feels like when he hears such rhetoric. And yet, Rabbi Grylak is right about how the Haredi world feels about it. This is increasingly what one hears from their circles. It is the Haredi version of “Hell no! We won’t go!” That was the mantra of the draft card burning anti Viet Nam war protesters in the late 60s and early 70s.

Another thing that Rabbi Grylak does not seem to understand is that this is not only about asserting the Torah’s protective quality. It isn’t just about countering the anti religious view that rejects the idea that the Torah has any value. A view that has a shrinking number of adherents even as the Haredi world does its level best to perpetuate that myth. Their “Hell no” attitude is a complete turn off from Judaism to any secular Jew or even religious Jew who has served or is serving in the army. The truth is that the majority of Israelis are not anti Torah. But they are becoming anti Haredi because of the very attitude represented in an article like this.
And there is another very important thing Rabbi Grylak ignores which has nothing to do with what actually protects the Jewish people. Something I have addressed here many times. The actual blood that is shed on their behalf by soldiers who have been killed in battle. Blood that no Yeshiva or Kollel student will ever have to shed.

Rabbi Grylak completely ignores the grieving mother who has lost a son in battle… or has suffered the trauma of a son seriously and permanently wounded. His argument is irrelevant to that mother. Her son’s life was extinguished or permanently altered by a severe disability. Every mother whose son serves in the IDF has that worry. When their son leaves home to do battle with the enemy, their fears about whether they will ever see their son alive again is very real. Not so the mother who sees her son leave home to go learn in the Yeshiva.

This is not only Rabbi Grylak’s view but represents the view of his entire community. To one degree or another their arrogance about the draft and the callous message that sends to every mother who has a son in the IDF is inexcusable. I do not understand how any of the rabbinic leaders do not see that. Nor do I understand why they do not see what a Gadol of the last generation saw. As I have pointed out many times Rav Chaim Shmulevitz understood the value of the IDF and said so publicly.

But I guess that there are those who disagree with Rav Shmulevitz – Rabbi Grylak among them. As do just about all the rabbinic leaders in Israel. At least that’s what he says in this article.

Shas HaShamd?! Really!?

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.


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One Response to “Is Going to the IDF an Evil Decree?”

  1. Tzvi Fishman says:

    Very interesting observations.

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