web analytics
March 29, 2015 / 9 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Tal Law And Jewish Law – Is There A Conflict?

Nadel-062212

In February, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled the Tal Law discriminatory and unconstitutional in a vote of six to three. The law, which provides exemptions for young men studying in yeshiva full time, has been the subject of much criticism and controversy.

Advocates of maintaining the status quo argue that those studying Torah provide a spiritual protection to the state of Israel. They also believe Jewish Law requires exemptions for yeshiva students.

But what does Jewish law really require?

The Mishnah (Sotah 8:7) states: “…In a milchemet mitzvah, all go out [to war], even a groom from his room and a bride from her wedding canopy.” While many explain that women are exempt from combat, they are to assist by “providing food and fixing roads” (Tiferet Yisrael, ad loc.), for example. By including bride and groom, based on Yoel 2:16, the Mishnah emphasizes that all are required to participate in the war effort, without exception.

Rambam defines a milchemet mitzvah as, “war [against] the Seven Nations, war [against] Amalek, and assisting Israel from the hand of the enemy who comes up against them” (Hil. Melachim 5:1). This last definition informs our discussion. With a nuclear threat from Iran looming, enemy states on the borders, and the constant threat of terrorism within, anyone who is intellectually honest must admit that Israelis find themselves embroiled in a milchemet mitzvah, a national security situation that demands the help of all.

Those who advocate exemptions for students studying Torah full time also find support in the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah. Rambam writes at the end of Hilchot Shemitta v’Yovel that the tribe of Levi is exempt from going to war as they are the “army of Hashem,” so to speak. They do not inherit a portion in the Land and their material needs are provided for. They are the spiritual leaders of the Jewish people.

Rambam adds: “And not only the tribe of Levi, but also each and every individual whose spirit moves him and whose knowledge gives him understanding to set himself apart in order to stand before the Lord, to serve Him, to worship Him and to know Him, and releases his neck from the yoke of the many considerations that men are wont to pursue – such an individual is consecrated as the Holy of Holies, and his portion and inheritance shall be in the Lord forever and ever….”

Rambam allows for anyone “whose spirit moves him” to devote himself solely to Torah study, free from the burden of army service and divorced of all material concerns.

But this passage is problematic. Later commentaries struggle to find a Talmudic source for Rambam’s ruling. Some suggest the passage is based on Nedarim 32a, where our patriarch Avraham is criticized for drafting Torah scholars in the War of the Four Kings against the Five. Others point to Sotah 10a, which describes how King Asa was punished for mobilizing talmidei chachamim.

What is clear is that Rambam’s ruling here is not the rule but the exception. His allowance is for a select few individuals who are able to devote themselves wholly to avodat Hashem. Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein asks, “To how large a segment of the Torah community – or, a fortiori, of any community – does this lofty typology apply? To two percent? Five percent? Can anyone who negotiates the terms of salary, perhaps even naden or kest or both, confront a mirror and tell himself that he ought not go to the army because he is kodesh kodashim, sanctum sanctorum in the Rambam’s terms?”

Exempting entire sectors of the Jewish community from army service and from pursuing a parnassah is not what the Rambam intended.

In the early days of statehood, when Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, the famed Chazon Ish, and other leading rabbis reached a compromise with David Ben-Gurion to provide military exemptions for yeshiva students, only 400 were exempted. Writing about a milchemet mitzvah, the Chazon Ish himself recognized that “if there is a need for them, they must come to the aid of their brethren” (Orach Chaim, Eiruvin, no. 114). Today, the number of exemptions has grown to well over 60,000. How the words of the Chazon Ish ring true today.

Those who do not serve in the IDF claim exemption under the guise of Toratan omanutan, their complete commitment to Torah study. But the real issue is not one of halacha. The truth is that for many, the insistence on exemption is out of convenience. Yet others are motivated by anti-Zionism. They do not want to recognize the state of Israel or serve in its army. But halacha requires some form of service for everyone. No exceptions. No exemptions.

Moshe’s argument to the tribes of Reuven and Gad – “Shall your brothers go out to battle while you sit here?” (Num. 32:6) – resonates today with those who see the imbalance of the current situation. Israelis who serve in the IDF harbor feelings of anger and resentment toward their coreligionists who do not. Many are also upset by the government’s financial support of haredi yeshivot and institutions, whose beneficiaries do not serve. What’s missing is a sense of equality, a sense of shared responsibility, and a sense of shared destiny.

The Tal Law is set to expire on July 31. The current situation has become untenable. Prime Minister Netanyahu has said he is committed to “a more egalitarian and just law” to replace the status quo. His promise is not just good politics in an election year – it’s what Jewish law requires.

Rabbi Shimshon Nadel lives in Jerusalem, where he teaches Torah. His forthcoming book is “Return Again: The Argument for Aliyah.”

About the Author: Rabbi Shimshon HaKohen Nadel lives and teaches in Jerusalem.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

2 Responses to “Tal Law And Jewish Law – Is There A Conflict?”

  1. Jonathan Weber says:

    Excellent article! I agree the Charedi situation is way out of hand and – – – Those that don't support the State of Israel should not receive any money from the government. That's shear lunacy. The Rambam also said we should work for a living 'and' study Torah.

  2. Charlie Hall says:

    How can one cite the Rambam in Hilchot Shemitta v’Yovel as justifying unlimited draft exemptions while at the same time ignoring Rambam's Hilchot Talmud Torah that not only prohibits learning torah on the public dime, but says that those who do forfeit their share in Olam HaBa?

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
obamatargetiran-275x167
Iranian Journalist Defects, Says US Team Speaking for Iran
Latest Indepth Stories
Islamic Relief Worldwide Logo

In November 2014, Islamic Relief Worldwide was classified as a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates.

Safran-032715

Too rarely appreciated for its symbolic weight; it can represent freedom and independence.

Erica Pelman is a spiritually-driven woman. She is founder and director of “In Shifra’s Arms” (ISA), an organization that offers aid to pregnant Jewish women of all religious backgrounds practically, financially and emotionally. Its arms are open to any pregnant woman in need whether single, divorced, separated, or from a financially-strapped family. “Presently, we are […]

Gerstenfeld-032715

Many so-called “humanitarian NGOs” frequently abuse Israel by applying false moral equivalencies

Israeli history now has its version of “Dewey Defeats Truman” with headlines from 2 anti-Bibi papers

In God’s plan why was it necessary that Moses be raised by Pharaoh, away from his own family&people?

In their zechus may we all come to appreciate that life is a fleeting gift and resolve to spend every precious moment of it as if it were the last.

In any event, Mr. Netanyahu after the election sought to soften his statement on Palestinian statehood and apologized for what he conceded were remarks that “offended some Israeli citizens and offended members of the Israeli Arab community.”

A worthy idea any way you look at it.

There is something quite distinctive about the biblical approach to time.

The Waqf kept control of the Temple Mount due to Dayan’s “magnanimity in victory” after 6 Day war

The event promotes “1 state” solution (end of Israel as a Jewish State), BDS, lawfare against Israel

I rescued you?! You’re doing me a favor letting me help you!

“Tzedakah tatzil mi-mavet: Charity saves from death”; No death & a tax break? Where do I sign up?

More Articles from Rabbi Shimshon HaKohen Nadel
The Vilna Gaon

All secular wisdom is essential for our Holy Torah and is included in it.

Nadel-050313

A flag with the Star of David hung prominently in the synagogues of Prague since the mid-14th century, with the approval of their great rabbis.

Minutes after candle-lighting, sirens rang out in Jerusalem, disturbing the peace and tranquility ushered in by Shabbat. Earlier that day, my wife and I assured our parents that we are far from the rockets in our home in Har Nof, a quiet suburb nestled in the Jerusalem Forest.

In February, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled the Tal Law discriminatory and unconstitutional in a vote of six to three. The law, which provides exemptions for young men studying in yeshiva full time, has been the subject of much criticism and controversy.

The message of the Biblical account of the Spies has tremendous relevance today, here in the modern State of Israel. With a nuclear threat from Iran, enemy states on its borders, the ever-constant fear of terrorism, and pressure from the International Community, Israel is not without its challenges. But it’s also the ‘Start Up Nation,’ with a healthy, growing economy when most of the world’s economies are failing.

In the early days of Statehood, when Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, the famed Chazon Ish, and other leading rabbis reached a compromise with David Ben Gurion to provide military exemptions for yeshiva students, only some 400 students were exempted. Writing about a Milchemet Mitzvah, the Chazon Ish himself recognized that “if there is a need for them, they must come to the aid of their brethren.”

It has been said ‘It is easier to take the Jew out of the Exile, than to take the Exile out of the Jew’. While in Egypt, the Jewish people could not even hear Hashem’s promise of Redemption because of their “shortness of spirit.” Their bondage wasn’t merely a physical bondage, but a mental one. And so, while still in Egypt, Hashem began the process of taking the Jew out of the psychology of Exile, ridding him of his slave mentality.

With thousands of Haggadot in print, it can be overwhelming to decide what to buy and what to use at the Seder. Just like kashering the home for Pesach requires preparation, so too the material for the Seder. And according to the investment is the return. Below are twenty of my favorite Haggadot.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/tal-law-and-jewish-law-is-there-a-conflict/2012/06/20/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: