There was an amazing editorial by Rabbi Moshe Grylak in last week’s Mishpacha Magazine, in which hereflected on the newly elected Israeli Knesset. He applauded the fact that so many members of the new Knesset will be observant Jews. In fact, he pointed out that it has almost become fashionable for a political party to have at least one religious Jew on their list. Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid has two rabbis who will be sitting members in the Knesset. He contrasted that to an earlier time when wearing a Kipa in the Knesset was seen as anything but an asset. Here is how he put it:
I, for one, feel this is a refreshing change. It tells us that the kippah on the head of an MK does not, in and of itself, frighten the secular public in Eretz Yisrael the way it once did. Two weeks ago Yair Lapid, head of the celebrated new Yesh Atid party, declared publicly and unabashedly that he believes in G‑d and in Divine involvement in earthly affairs, a departure from the faith of his father, Tommy Lapid, who was an avowed atheist.
A journalist from the left-leaning Haaretz once told me that in her opinion, Tommy Lapid didn’t hate the hareidim so much as he looked down on them pityingly, considering them victims of some mass delusion. Yet his beloved son Yair is standing up and bareheadedly declaring his adherence to that very “delusion.” How that belief affects his personal life, if at all, is not the question now.
The point is that he felt he could make such a statement without fear of losing the election, and that attests to a change in the public’s attitude. In the past, one such remark by a candidate could have lost him any chance of sitting in the Knesset. Indeed! An astounding 40 or more members of the Knesset will be Kipa wearing Jews. That is at least 1/3 of the Knesset! That is a Kiddush HaShem!
But as a card carrying Haredi, Rabbi Grylak considers this to be a mixed blessing. While applauding this new statistic he laments the fact that so many of these new members seem to be opposed to the views of ‘Daas Torah’ on the subject of drafting Haredim into the army. The Haredi position is well known by now. They are opposed to drafting Haredim.
How opposed? It seems like it might be a Machlokes HaPoskim. Here is what Yahadut Hatorah’s Menachem Eliezer Moses said. From YWN: “If we are so compelled, we will all accompany the bnei yeshivos to prison.”
But Brisk Rosh Yeshiva, HaGaon HaRav Meshulam Dovid Halevy Soloveitchik has said that if the draft is enacted into law, then “we (Yeshiva and Kollel students) will be compelled to leave the country.”
Jail or exile. What a choice.
None of this surprises me. That is all I’ve been hearing since the Tal law was allowed to lapse. The Tal Law offered Haredim a path into the workforce by satisfying their military obligations with minimal service after leaving Kollel. And even that law was considered anti Torah by some Haredi rabbinic leaders.
This is one area where differences between Haredi factions disappear. When it comes to drafting their youth, they all unite in common cause. The Eida HaHaredis, the Lithuanian Yeshiva world, the world of Hasidim… even HaGoan Rav Ovadia Yosef… all keep repeating the same “Hell no… We won’t go!” type mantra:
What is disturbing to me is not so much their argument that learning Torah is more important than army service. It is the way they articulate it. Here for example is what Rav Meshulam Dovid Halevy Soloveitchik said in a Shmooze (informal lecture or conversation) with his students. From YWN:
“The kavona of the haters of Israel by trying to draft bnei yeshivos is to destroy the major foundation of Torah, to destroy the yeshiva world, and to uproot everything R”L
The rosh yeshiva refers to the share the burden effort as an “existential threat against the Torah world and Yiddishkheit R”L”.
…they seek to uproot everything” he adds, “to uproot Klall Yisrael’s neshama from its roots, the yeshivos hakodesh.”
“When we refer annually in the Pesach haggadah (In every generation they stand against us to destroy us) refers to the gezeiros of the haters of Torah seeking to uproot the Torah HaKadosha R”L.” I’m sorry. With all due respect to Rav Soloveitchik does he really believe that the goal of… not only the secular government but of many religious members of the Knesset is to destroy Torah Judaism? If so – he is wrong and clueless about their goal and their motives.
I would not accuse him of lying or even exaggerating. That would not be in consonance with his standing as an Ish Emes – a man of truth which is one of the hallmarks of the Soloveitchik dynasty. They are not given to exaggeration either. I must therefore assume that he actually believes what he is saying.
To me that says only one thing. He is so isolated from the world that he believes that nothing has changed since the days of Czarist Russia or the founding of the State! …that any and all support for a Charedi draft stems from the desire to destroy Yiddishkeit by haters of Torah. He simply does not appreciate the sincere arguments made by – not only the bereaved secular mother of a fallen soldier – but even sincerely religious Jews. Some of whom are bereaved mothers of fallen soldiers themselves.
Does Rav Soloveitchik really think that the Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett – an observant Jew or Rabbi Dov Lipman – A Musmach of Ner Israel (and a hero in my view) have “risen in our generation to destroy the Jewish people”? Is he that naïve? Does he think that the Hesder Yeshiva is a ploy by Religious Zionists to “uproot Klall Yisrael’s neshama from its roots, the yeshivos hakodesh.”
I guess so…
I don’t question Rav Soloveitchik’s right to believe as he does – although I obviously strongly disagree with him. But I do question his right to frame the motives of those who support the draft in such vicious and evil terms.
If I recall correctly Jonathan Rosenblum suggested in one of his columns that in Israel – such comments be taken with a grain of salt. That they don’t really mean it when they say it. It’s just hyperbole to impress upon the listener the severity of their opposition.
I’m sorry. That does not fly in my book. Not when truly sincere and religious people are involved. Not when lives of people who protect the country are at stake. I think such rhetoric does great harm to the fabric of a nation in the throes of constant existential threat.
Which is why I am proud to follow another Soloveitchik who in my view was far greater than this one… my Rebbe Rav Ahron who proudly said Hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut and whose grandson Yitzchak Zev HaLevi Soloveichik proudly served in the IDF.
In trying to understand all of this, I think the perplexed Rabbi Grylak said it best: “Whatever the case, it’s obvious that something major is going on behind the scenes, and Hashem alone knows what it is.”
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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 email@example.com.
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