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Arrest Of Yeshiva Bachurim Causes Controversy

A yeshiva bachur, 19-year-old Moshe Elashvilli from Kiryat Malachi, was recently arrested and incarcerated for not appearing for Israeli army duty. Elashvilli, a talmid in the Nachlas Asher Yeshiva in Petach Tikvah, was sentenced to a two-week jail term.

He received a draft notice before Israel’s Supreme Court overturned the Tal Law, under which one would be required to report to an induction center and declare that Torah study is his full-time profession. Elashvilli had earlier reported to an induction center and made such a declaration. Following the Tal Law’s nullification, he received additional notices ordering him to report. He consulted with the mashgiach of the yeshiva where he was learning, who instructed him not to report to an induction center – in line with the instructions from rabbanim.

Following Elashvilli’s arrest, the yeshiva’s mashgiach met with HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Auerbach, shlita, and the Edah HaChareidis Gavad of Jerusalem, HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss, shlita. On Wednesday, December 4, the second day of Rosh Chodesh Teves, Rav Auerbach and several hundred avreichim visited the military prison to be mechazek the young talmid. The avreichim recited Tehillim outside the prison and held signs proclaiming: “Learn Torah and you will succeed”; “We will not be broken”; and “We will not serve.” The protests continued the next afternoon, with traffic in the area of Kikar Shabbos in Yerushalayim stopped for hours as haredim protested Elashvilli’s arrest and imprisonment.

Another such arrest of a yeshiva bachur, 18-year-old Mordechai Kennig, was made last week. He attends the yeshiva in Kfar Chassidim near Haifa. The streets of Beit Shemesh were blocked for some time this past Sunday to protest the ongoing arrests of yeshiva bachurim who are not reporting to military service.

At the heart of these arrests is a dispute between two leaders, HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, shlita, and Rav Auerbach. Rav Shteinman has instructed yeshiva bachurim to present themselves at the IDF recruiting offices when called upon, but to not sign any documents. Bachurim who have complied with this have received enlistment orders, but the Ministry of Defense has repeatedly cancelled them as the enlistment date drew near.

On the other hand, Rav Auerbach has instructed yeshiva bachurim to not appear at the recruiting offices at all. Those who follow this instruction are classified as deserters and subject to arrest.

More Army News  

Apparently many irreligious soldiers have begun growing beards, claiming they are doing so for religious purposes. IDF Paratroop Brigade Commander Col. Eliezer Toledano says that one of every three soldiers in his brigade has grown a beard, saying the soldier is doing so for either religious or health reasons.

The soldiers reportedly shave their beards upon returning home for weekend leave. This has led Col. Toledano to conclude that the beards are not grown for the purpose of sincerity, but rather due to laziness.

Some soldiers are seemingly taking advantage of the army’s allowance for them to grow beards for religious purposes. Commanders have begun asking these soldiers basic religious questions, but many have been unable to supply acceptable answers. A soldier who claims to live a religious lifestyle is expected to daven daily and know the weekly parshah. A soldier who admittedly watches television on Shabbos, for example, will not be allowed to claim that his beard is being grown for religious purposes.

Col. Toledano fears that the growing of beards leads to a decline in discipline and if not being grown for genuine religious or health reasons, they cannot be tolerated. He feels that anyone claiming to grow a beard for religious reasons must maintain a semblance of a religious lifestyle.

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