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Chief Military Rabbi: Religious Soldiers Do Not Have to Hear Female Singers at IDF Events

Brigadier General Rabbi Rafi Peretz at the Siach Yitzhak yeshiva in Gush Etzion.

Brigadier General Rabbi Rafi Peretz at the Siach Yitzhak yeshiva in Gush Etzion.
Photo Credit: Stephen Leavitt / JewishPress.com

Chief Military Rabbi, Brigadier General Rabbi Rafi Peretz, visited Thursday the Siach Yitzhak yeshiva in Givat Ha’Dagan, Efrat, Gush Etzion.

He spoke as part of a seminar at the yeshiva, discussing halachic considerations in deciding military issues.

Speaking implicitly on the issue of enlisting yeshiva students—for the first time since the Supreme Court had overturned the Tal Law that sought to mitigate the process of mainstreaming Haredi youths through staggered conscription—the Chief Rabbi said that they (the students) simply cannot say the IDF “doesn’t suit me,” or “I belong elsewhere.”

He said the draft is the life saver of the nation “both in the sense of keeping us safe, and the sense of walking along together, and I have evidence for it in Jewish law.”

Nevertheless, Rabbi Peretz said he was not calling for “mass enlistment of yeshiva students tomorrow morning,” and he recognized that Torah study also contributes to the IDF.

The Chief Military Rabbi also addressed the debate over compulsory military events that feature women’s singing, and whether or not religious soldiers who feel that listening to it jeopardizes them morally should be allowed to abstain from attending.

Rabbi Peretz admitted that his own liberal ruling which allows the participation of religious soldiers in military ceremonies with women singers was not ideal: “To be able to live a good life before the fact (milechatchila), we sometimes are pushed into making hasty decisions after the fact (b’de’aved),” he explained. “But do not cross red lines.”

But he stated flatly that a religious soldier did not have to sit in a show with female singers.

He suggested that most conflicts between military directives and Jewish law are born by a lack of sensitivity on the part of both sides to each other’s values. According to him, care, understanding and inclusion of others would have prevented most of the collisions.

The Jewish Press asked Rabbi Peretz, “Twenty years ago, a Yeshiva student in the IDF could choose not to sit at an event with female singers and it wasn’t a problem, but now, twenty years later, it’s become a flash point. Doesn’t all the uproar seem manufactured to you?”

Rabbi Peretz smiled and enigmatically replied, “There’s a reason.”

But he insisted that building unity between religious and not religious is a process. to illustrate, he told the following story:

When his son was in training in an elite combat unit, he didn’t made it home in time for Shabbat for eight straight weeks, but the young man never complained. Rabbi Peretz eventually asked his son’s commander why he wasn’t letting his soldiers out in time for Shabbat—the five religious boys of the unit kept getting stuck and having to spend Shabbat wherever they were when the sun had set on Fridays.

The secular commander was shocked, according to Rabbi Peretz, and stated sadly that he wasn’t worthy of being those boys’ commander if he didn’t know he had been causing them such pain.

He admitted that in his mind he was certain that with the holy work the boys were doing in the Army, God would forgive them for being an hour late.

Rabbi Pretz hugged that commander, and told him he wished that all the secular soldiers were like him.

(Stephen Leavitt contributed to this article)

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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5 Responses to “Chief Military Rabbi: Religious Soldiers Do Not Have to Hear Female Singers at IDF Events”

  1. Bob Gold says:

    This article hurts Yiddishkeit. There is a key discrepancy between the Title “…IDF Events” and the single apparent-quote “But he stated flatly that a religious soldier did not have to sit in a show with female singers.” “Events” is a more inclusive term then “show”. If you review the other articles about this (eg Autz Sheva) you see the IDF is enforcing Kol Isha violations at ‘morale-building’ events like promotions, commendations and holidays, and NOT just at “shows”. JP should correctly reconcile the headline with the quotes/interview and not lend its credibility to hopeful misinterpretations nor plausible deniability.

    Thank you and Good Shabbos

  2. Steve says:

    Rabbi Peretz barely talked about the Kol Isha issue directly, and in fact practically avoided it as a specific subject. He spoke on a more general level, about national unity, and the process and importance of reaching that state of unity.

  3. Dan the Man says:

    How in the world does this article “hurt Yiddeshkeit”?

  4. Bob Gold says:

    It hurts yiddishkeit by implying the IDF is being more reasonable than it is in fact.
    It constitutes a con to falsely reassure prospective enlistees that they are free to leave all Kol isha events – when in fact the wrong-headed IDF leaders (maybe not all but…) are arranging Kol isha events which they paint as required morale building, unit-cohesion. This follows the whole governmental pattern (Israel, U.S., but especially endemic to the Israeli system) of plausible deniability, ‘we never said there would never be any IDF gatherings (blah blah blah).’ So it hurts Observant Jews , including their families, by setting them up, by deceiving them, and eventually forcing them into Kol isha violations (involuntary b’dieved, but avoidable if you disbelieve the lies l’chatchila). Analogous to the generators for which were built Shabbos parking paths about a decade ago but the choleria STILL insisted on moving them on Shabbos.

    I am so sad that the great reputation of the IDF is being besmirched by their misuse in evacuating Jewish “settlements” (our Holy Land!) and the lesser but insidious undermining of Halacha such as Kol isha. The “leaders”‘ fault, from Netanyahu on down.

    I am not ‘holier than thou’ and in fact am a significantly secularized B.T. Me hearing a woman is not such a big deal – but our (not perfect but) purer, holy youth – being ‘done a number on’ by having the nobility of defending their fellow Jews INTENTIONALLY combined and confused with deliberately imposed violations of halacha specifically intended to weaken the youths’ Yiddishkeit. (of course I do not condemn life-saving actions on Shabbos/Yom Tov. Which these Kol Isha situations are emphatically not).

    It should be axiomatic that a syllogism that any-thing that even minutely helps IDF morale is life-saving, is patently untrue. In this, the non-observant are not to be trusted, not to be relied upon.

    This is not – or should not be – some sort of sick game, like where the terrorists lie in English and tell their murderous,genocidal true intents in Arabic. Let the Israeli (and all) leaders tell the truth, and defend what needs defending – not undermine our earnest, observant youth through the cowardly dissimulation of semantics. (Which is invariably followed by the plausible deniability of “we never said that”, “we never promised that”, “we never approved that”, ‘you must prove parts of Israel were/are not Arab-owned or claimed, even if we approved, encouraged and financed their development’
    etc. etc.

    -BG

  5. Bob Gold says:

    Of course. What an author termed “the greasy dissimulation of politics”. Vague generalities about “national unity” avoiding the specifics of the unnecessary sacrifices upon the altar of that unity. Hence my comment and (above) reply.

    - B.G.

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