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My Exchange With An Old Haredi Friend

The impression given that one cannot be a Torah Jew and a talmid chacham while working to support one’s family is an outrageous canard.

A modern-day Jewish warrior in the tradition of Abraham, Moses, Joshua and David.

A modern-day Jewish warrior in the tradition of Abraham, Moses, Joshua and David.

The day before the Manhattan rally earlier this month opposing the Israeli haredi draft legislation, I was contacted by an old friend who now lives in Israel, part of the haredi world. He sent me his thoughts and I responded. The exchange follows, with minor editing and condensing. I have deleted the friend’s name.

Dear Steven,

Ahead of the mass gathering of Torah-true Jewry scheduled to take place tomorrow in Manhattan, I’m reaching out to you, our brothers in America, to share with you the sad truth: here, in the state of Israel, Torah Jewry is subject to religious persecution.

To classify Torah students as “criminals,” subject to imprisonment, is only the latest and most absurd of anti-haredi laws enacted recently by the government. In addition, they have drastically cut education and welfare budgets, aiming to choke our yeshivas and schools, and even our individual religious freedoms, so prized by Americans and citizens of democracies worldwide.

Under the deceptive mantra of “sharing the burden,” the government is responsible for a wave of unprecedented incitement against haredim, thereby splitting the nation. It is no secret that the objective of conscripting Torah scholars is a thinly disguised attempt at social engineering.

Is it conceivable that a Jewish government in Israel is trying to prevent its citizens from living Torah-true lives in the tradition that their ancestors for generations were moser nefesh for?

As you prepare to gather to offer heartfelt tefillos tomorrow, please remember that the train of persecution of lomdei Torah has already left the station and that there is no doubt it is more difficult to stop a train that is already moving than to prevent it from leaving.

We know that the heart of Torah-true American Jewry beats together with its brethren in Eretz Yisrael, and senses that the danger to Torah observance in the Holy Land is a danger to the entire Jewish world.

Sincerely,
[Name deleted]
Your brother in Eretz Yisrael

Dear ———:

It is great to hear from you and I hope you and the family are well, but I must part company with you on this issue, and I will not be participating in the rally. In fact, I denounced it yesterday – even noted (based on a Midrash at the beginning of Vayikra) that there is such a concept of a “Talmid chacham she-ein bo da’at.”

Here is why:

Haredim make a mistake in thinking that only the Lapid-led diehard seculars have a growing contempt for them. The dati-leumi community is also increasingly hostile, because they sense – to me, accurately – that the haredi community is causing hatred for Torah. It is impossible to explain to, for example, my nephew, who learned in Hesder and completed his army service, why his Talmud Torah is somehow inferior to that of haredim. It is not. Perhaps his Talmud Torah is the same, but the haredi world’s “nosei b’ol im chaveiro” is completely absent. That deficiency in Ahavat Yisrael is glaring, noticed, and the reason why the society at large no longer tolerates it.

It is unconscionable that there exists in the haredi world this idea that work and army service are beneath it, and that the rest of society that haredim hold in contempt must support them so that they can sit and learn. I too would love to sit and learn, and have someone support me, but that is not the system Hashem set up.

Odd, indeed, that the Rambam’s clear statement (Hilchot Talmud Torah 3:10-11) is ignored, if it is even taught. But when he speaks of “kavah me’or hadat,” that is exactly what has happened. That construct of the haredi world as practiced today is unprecedented in Jewish history.

About the Author: Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is the spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun of Teaneck, New Jersey, and the author most recently of “Judges for Our Time: Contemporary Lessons from the Book of Shoftim” (Gefen Publishing House, Jerusalem, 2009). His writings and lectures can be found at www.Rabbipruzansky.com.


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13 Responses to “My Exchange With An Old Haredi Friend”

  1. This would kill two birds with one stone:

  2. Znowu bardzo trafne!
    Brawo Rabin Pruzansky!

  3. Dita Gould says:

    The Israeli's have been patient till now.It's high time the ultra religious shoulder some responsibilityfor the upkeep of the country.not just the benefits

  4. A LONG-OVERDUE WARNING TO THE HAREIDIM about their corrosive contempt for their fellow Jews, about how that contempt boomerangs back upon them, and about how their chosen lifestyle causes contempt for Torah.

  5. Rabbi Pruzansky has got it right. I think I am right in saying that a small percentage of Jews would be supported to study in the yeshivot, following the State of Independence of Israel. This was to ensure that their would not be any loss of religion in the new state. But now! The vast numbers of Haredi who are nothing more than parasites on an already stretched economy, is horrendous. And add to that the fact that they are protected by young Israelis risking their lives for them, and it all becomes ludicrous. The Haredi should be made to serve in the military. They live there so they should help to protect their country.

  6. Thank you, Rabbi Pruzansky – well said! I have always been flummoxed by the haredi refusal to even accept national service.

  7. Paul Palnik says:

    this is true of everyone who has contempt for others

  8. Miki Bacsi says:

    I have a solution.
    Send all the Haredim to the two wild-men-garden located in Israel, give them arms so they can defend themselves, and finally they will understand that self-protection is allowed by the Torah. They might even find out that growing their own food is not evil at all.

  9. Orah Peer says:

    Amazing Article,yashar koach:

  10. An important aspect is missing from the discussion: the religious makeup of the army, even in the Nachal Haredi, makes it very difficult for Haredi participation. If you don't understand that, you don't understand Haredi and Israeli society. There is an increasing alienation between the "Medinah" and Hardei society, and the actions by Lapid et al are making it worse. The Haredi world needs to "normalize" meaning they need to go to work. They do not need to go to the army. The army already has too many people who are not fit soldiers. The days of the "people's army " are over. We need a smarter, not larger, army. Read carefully how Gilad Schalit got captured. Not everybody is cut out to be a soldier.

  11. Sometimes the people of Israel, the Land of Israel and the Torah of Israel must be defended by the sword of man. And when the moment comes, everybody is obligated to leave his regular occupations and studies to defend Am Israel. Long live the modern Macabbeans, our Datim Leumim warriors! Maimonides used to say: "We live in the Diaspora because our ancestors neglected the art of war".

    NEVER AGAIN

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