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September 30, 2016 / 27 Elul, 5776
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King David Drafted Torah Scholars Into His Army

The divide between the Zionist and the non-Zionist groups of haredim is wide and growing wider.


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IDF soldiers praying at the Kotel.

IDF soldiers praying at the Kotel.



The Prophet Yeshayahu says (Isaiah 55:8-9): “ ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

The thoughts of man, even those of the greatest talmid chacham, cannot fathom the thoughts of the Creator, for many of the Torah laws run counter to human logic.

For example, if a nine year old breaks a neighbor’s window, it’s logical to think the parent is financially responsible. However, when one’s cat breaks the neighbor’s flowerpot it is accepted that the owner is not financially culpable. In fact, according to Torah law, the opposite is true: a parent is not financially responsible for a child’s actions but is responsible for damage caused by his material possessions.

Another example is a kohen who fathered a child by a woman he is prohibited from marrying. The child is a chalal (devoid of any kohanic sanctity), but the father who transgressed remains a valid kohen. And there are many more examples.

The Mishnah in Kiddushin 76a states:

A kohen who wishes to marry must investigate the genealogy of the woman of his choice in order to establish that she is halachically permitted to marry a kohen. However, if she is the daughter of a kohen who served in the Temple [whose genealogy was already confirmed] or the daughter of a member of the Sanhedrin or the daughter of a soldier in King David’s army, he need not investigate the woman’s genealogy.

The Gemara explains that King David drafted into his army only the most genealogically and spiritually suitable. David’s logic was that in war, Hashem weighs the relative merits of the litigants. Therefore, it is essential that our side be overwhelmingly more righteous than the enemy.

How different are our thoughts from those of the great King David.

Today’s yeshiva world might be prepared to accept the idea that those who are not learners be drafted, but certainly not the outstanding learners. In contrast, David and his advisers saw the Torah truth to be just the opposite – they knew the best fighters would be the most gifted talmidei chachamim, bringing with them Torah and mitzvot as the efficient weapons for victory.

In my 22 years of serving in an anti-aircraft unit of the Israeli Air Force and later as a paramedic in civil defense, I witnessed the influence a single religious soldier can have on a unit.

For example, the religious soldier organizes minyanim. The general atmosphere is much improved, with a discernibly more serious attitude. During my service, my tefillin were in use overtime, and Shabbat became a time for serious discussion about many areas of life and a time when the non-observant soldiers and officers got a taste of Torah – for some, it was the first time in their lives they had heard the chachmah of Torah.

There are many rabbis and lay people who define themselves as religious Zionist haredim. Many learn Torah no less than non-Zionist haredim, and all are as scrupulous in keeping mitzvot as the most meticulous non-Zionist haredi. They serve in the army, many as officers with some reaching the highest ranks. These people can be found in all areas of technology, commerce, academia, the arts, etc.

I humbly feel I am part of this group of religious Zionist haredim.

The divide between the two groups of haredim is wide and growing wider.

The non-Zionist haredi camp has brought with it the ways of the galut. After 2,000 years of our incredible suffering in exile, Hashem opened the gates to Eretz Yisrael. Life in the Holy Land as an independent nation requires that we leave behind the accumulated psychological baggage of the galut, where the non-Jew did the “dirty work.”

Rabbi Nachman Kahana

About the Author: Rabbi Nachman Kahana the spiritual leader of Hazon Yichezkeil a member synagogue of Young Israel (Yisrael Hatzair) in the Old City of Jerusalem. He has founded the Institute for Talmudic Commentaries (המכון להסברת מפרשי התלמוד) through which he has published “Mei Menuchot” (מי מנוחות - Restful Waters) a Hebrew elucidation of the Tosafot commentary on several tractates of the Talmud. He is the authror "With All Your Might" of a new series of Shabbat drashot .


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