Torah Study And Military Service
Bravo to Rabbis Jeremy Gimpel (“Torah Study and the Defense Of Israel”) and Nachman Kahana (“King David Drafted Torah Scholars Into His Army,” March 21). At last someone had the courage to clear the air and set forth the true Da’at Torah on this painful subject.
Rabbi Gimpel is correct; it is difficult to find in Tanach or in the Talmud a case where Jews refused to join their brethren to defend Eretz Yisrael against its enemies.
To the contrary: It is written that when Moshe Rabbeinu asked the tribes of Gad and Reuven to join their brethren in conquering the land, they replied enthusiastically that not only would they join the battle, they would be in the front lines ahead of everyone else (Bamidbar 32:6-27).
The tribes of Gad and Reuven did not suggest to Moshe that they be permitted to stay home and study Torah. There was no such concept.
Further, the Torah lists four exemptions from war duty: one who’s built a house but hasn’t dedicated it; one who planted a vineyard but hasn’t partaken of its fruit; one who’s a newlywed; and one who’s fearful or softhearted (Devarim 20:5).
Torah scholars are not on that list. In fact, our sages tell us that those the Torah refers to as fearful are afraid because of their sins. In other words, those who were burdened with sin were sent home. Those going to war were a select group consisting of strictly observant Jews, tzaddikim, and Torah scholars. There were no exemptions for yeshiva students and kollel yungeleit.
Kew Gardens, NY
Plenty Of Chutzpah To Go Around
As the crisis in Crimea unfolds, we are seeing the ripple effects of failed diplomacy. President Obama was soft on Russia’s ally Syria, so Putin took this as an invitation to invade Ukraine. Now that’s chutzpah!
Not to be outdone, Secretary of State Kerry displayed some chutzpah of his own. In attempting to come to a diplomatic agreement with Russia, Kerry reached out to Russian-born Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman. First Kerry fails to break Israel, then he comes crawling back when he needs Israel. Chutzpah!
Howard Jay Meyer
Needed: More Rav Kamenetskys And Rav Pams
I applaud Dov Shurin’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek March 21 column but I wish he hadn’t felt the need, for reasons of political correctness, to downplay his true feelings. I myself have often wondered why certain gedolim have not advocated for causes that do not directly involve the functions of their yeshivas.
Mr. Shurin’s grandfather, the great Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt”l, was able to state forthright that Rav Kook was a tzaddik shalem because Rav Kamenetsky was more than a tzaddik or a gadol. He was what is referred to as a yashar – a person who continuously rejoices in the portion Hashem gave him and would never consider deviating from the straight and true path.
Rav Avraham Pam, zt”l, was also such a person. He reportedly once sent his rebbetzin back to a local store the day after a purchase to ensure that she had not received any special treatment from the proprietor.
Rav Kamenetsky and Rav Pam were as completely removed from self-interest as they were from insincerity and falsehood, but unfortunately not everyone is on that level.
As long as self-interest, politics, and angry sentiments pervade the yeshiva world, the response to the new draft legislation in Israel will be less than candid. And it should be clear that no persecution complex, however subjectively justified, can be allowed to color the truth when we are talking about matters that pertain to the viability and sustenance of the Jewish state.