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November 27, 2015 / 15 Kislev, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘draft’

Changing the Paradigm of the Haredi Jew

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

I have just read Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz’s article defending the Haredi way of life as the quintessential way for a Jew to live …and criticizing those who believe that Judaism is not a “one size fits all’ religion. He is entitled to his opinion. And I am entitled to believe he is wrong. I don’t know how many times I have written about why I think so. Probably too many to count. So I am not going to do it here.
What I will say is that it isn’t just that he disagrees. It is the condescending way in which he does it. It is beyond his understanding that a Rabbi Dov Lipman who self identifies as Haredi can say the things he did, things which contradict the Haredi narrative.

Rabbi Lipschutz does a nice job explaining what he believes Haredism is about. It is about

“basking in the glow of Abaye and Rava, Rashi and Tosafos, the Rambam, the Ramban and the Rashba, the Ketzos and the Nesivos, Rav Chaim and Rav Aharon, as well as the giants of our day.”

OK. I understand that. Limud HaTorah in his world is exactly that: the joy of studying the minutia of the Talmud and all of its commentaries. It is about trying to understand its subtleties and absorbing its entire corpus and discussion of biblical and rabbinic law – which is the source of Jewish law as we practice it today. To use a phrase the Yeshiva world uses – it is about the geshmak of learning Torah.

In the course of extolling the virtues of the Haredi way of life that he cherishes – he attacks those who veer even slightly form that narrative. Only this time it is not the secular or Dati Leumi crowd. It is Rabbi Dov Lipman who has himself imbibed in the “Geshmak of Torah.” He has “basked in the glow” of all those great historic religious figures. As a self-defined Haredi he has never really left it.

I’m sure he still agrees that if one is capable, has the love and commitment to it, he should do exactly that: continue basking in it. Those who have this kind of dedication and discipline are the rabbinic leaders of the future. No matter what hashkafa one has, there is no question that Torah knowledge is paramount to rabbinic leadership.

Unfortunately Rabbi Lipschutz does not understand that. He sees Rabbi Lipman as some sort of sellout. Why? Well for one thing because he dares to praise as heroes those who are kovieh itim (set times) and learn Torah whenever they can – but spend most of their time supporting their families.

Rabbi Lipschutz obviously sees them as second-class citizens. They no longer bask in the glow of a R. Akiva Eiger for example. They must suffice with learning daf yomi (a page daily) on a train on their way to work. It’s not that Rabbi Lipschutz criticizes them. Its that he criticizes Rabbi Lipman for praising them as the true heroes.

They are true heroes. They are moser nefesh for limud HaTorah and do so even though they spend a full day working to support their families. Either by waking up early and learning in a shiur or with a havrusa before shachrit, learning late at night, or on their way to work on a train. Are these people any less valuable than an Avreich who spends the entire day learning – leaving support for his family to others (e.g. his wife, parents, in-laws, or the Israeli taxpayer)?

R. Lipschutz is critical of the philosophy that values equity in army service, claiming that for the first time, the status quo agreement reached with Israel’s first prime minister David Ben Gurion exempting Yeshiva students will be broken. He is critical of Rabbi Lipman for joining in the political party that advocates that. And he is even critical of Orthodox Jews who have welcomed him into their synagogues to hear his views.

None are as blind as those who will not see. Rabbi Lipshitz is guilty of willful blindness. The kind that refuses to see or understand that no one in Israel wants to destroy the Haredi way of life (except for some on the fringes of the left). Least of all Rabbi Lipman. He actually wants to save it by creating a way for Haredim to be more self sufficient and do their fair share.

Army service is about sharing the burden. It is also about mainstreaming Haredim into the workplace so that they can earn a livable wage and support their families. It is not about destroying a way of life… unless we are talking a way of life that is rapidly descending into a poverty in ways that they will not be able to overcome.

Protesting the ‘Evil Decree’? Why Not a Counter Rally?

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

I don’t know who is behind this rally. But it is quite clear that those who are sponsoring it do not have any warm or fuzzy feelings for the State of Israel. Yet on this day… when literally millions of Jews in Israel are celebrating the birth of their modern State, it has been announced via Matzav that a rally will take place this coming Sunday in New York City to say Tehillim about the ‘terrible’ gezeirah (decree) being enacted by the Israeli government. From Matzav:

Matzav.com has learned that feverish )arrangements are being made for an atzeres tefillah to be held this coming Sunday, April 21, on New York City in light of the gezeiros being enacted by the government in Israel, specifically the implementation of a draft that would remove bochurim from their yeshivos and place them in the Israel Defense Forces. With the threat of the mandatory draft hanging over the yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel, and the budget cuts that have slashed funding to mekomos haTorah, the Olam Hatorah in the Holy Land is facing daunting weeks and months ahead

“The gathering will not be a protest against the Israeli government,” an event organizer told Matzav.com, “but rather purely a tefillah gathering, for thousands of Yidden to beseech Hashem for mercy at this most trying time. It will not be a political event.”

A kol koreh signed by leading rabbonim and roshei yeshiva encouraging attendance at the atzeres tefillah is currently being compiled and will be released as early as later today.

The gathering, to be held in downtown Manhattan, will feature the recital of Tehillim, divrei hisorerus, and kabbolas ohl Malchus Shomayim. The exact time of the event has not been released, though it is expected to be some time in the early afternoon.

I have to marvel at the way this is being characterized by the organizers. They say it will not be a protest against the Israeli government while practically in the same breath they speak about gezierot ( …as in ‘evil’ gezeirot. In their circles when one uses that term, they do not mean it as a compliment.)

Although I have expressed disappointment and opposition to the way this is being handled by rabbinic leaders in Israel and even here, I understand their angst. And their desire to be spared this ordeal. Their emphasis on prayer to God to relieve them of this ‘burden’ is therefore understandable too.

Even though I understand it, I do not support it. Far from it. In my view doing this in the middle of Manhattan in broad daylight is still a loud and terrible statement to be making to the world. The world will not understand that they are not protesting Israel no matter how they parse it in statements like the above announcement in Matzav. They can say all day long that they are not protesting Israel. The fact that they will be out there in the middle of Manhattan talking about “gezeirot” says otherwise.

Had they done so indoors in private setting it would be one thing. People can pray for whatever they want in private. Doing so in public does not add to their prayers. It instead speaks to their opposition to the State – protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. Actions like this speak louder than any explanation. And how will news of this feel to those IDF soldiers who risk their lives daily?

I don’t know who the signatories to this kol korei will be. But I would urge prominent rabbanim of any stripe not to sign it. I doubt that God will see any greater value of this prayer rally being done in public over being done in private. The only value it will have is to bring publicity to them. In my view very negative publicity.

Can it really be the case that rabbinic leaders think God will listen better to them if they do so in public? And how will it be seen by the New York City public that will be forced to be inconvenienced by the almost certain traffic jams this rally will cause? Is unnecessarily inconveniencing the public – and making them angry at us – the way to God’s “heart”?

If the streets are going to be blocked off for this prayer rally anyway, I would love to see a counter rally in close proximity held by members of mizrachi where there will also be Kabbolas Ol Malchus Shamyim. But the Divrei Hisorerus and Tehilim will be said for the safety of IDF soldiers instead.

There should be nothing negative said against the other rally. There should be no bashing of the other side at all. Just a pro Israel rally for the troops and a lot of flag waving… Israeli flags, of course.

This would speak volumes to our brothers and sisters in arms across the ocean risking their lives daily to fight our enemies while protecting our country. Wouldn’t it be nice if some of those attending the other rally would come over and join? That would be a Kiddush HaShem in my view. Frankly I think God might better appreciate those prayers than the other ones.

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How to Lessen the Hatred

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Jonathan Rosenblum asks a question in the title of from his most recent column in Mishpacha Magazine (republished in Cross Currents): “Can We Do Anything to Lessen the Hatred?”

He is referring to a common theme I write about here – the conflict in Israel between Haredim and non-Haredim. Please note that I did not say Haredim and Hilonim (secular Jews). That would be incorrect. Datim – or Religious Zionists – are increasingly being lumped (by Haredim) together with Hilonim. But they don’t need to be lumped together by Haredim. Datim are actually siding with Hilonim against Haredim on many issues. As in the one referred to as “sharing the burden” – meaning subjecting Haredim to the draft.

I recently wrote about this very issue. And I made note of the fact that thinking Haredi writers like Jonathan have expressed the same thoughts I have on this issue. He does so once again.

What surprised Jonathan is the level of hatred that actually exists – even among Religious Zionists. He gives the following example:

I sent a national religious colleague my piece in Mishpacha on the Haredi draft issue. I consider this woman to be Israel’s finest columnist. She always writes in a measured style, building her argument block by block, like the engineer she is by training. I was sure she would approve of my pragmatic argument for allowing processes well under way to develop.

I was wrong. Perhaps she would have agreed five years ago, she wrote, but now she was fed up and fully behind Bennett. Even a statement by Rav Aharon Leib Steinman, shlita, that army service represents a spiritual threat to [H]aredi recruits – an unassailable sociological fact in the current IDF environment – elicited paroxysms of anger. The evident frustration coming from someone normally so temperate and with a number of [H]aredi friends clued me in to the depth of feeling in the national religious world.

In light of all that Jonathan concedes that their attitude is based on how the Haredi world presents itself to the non-Haredi world… and suggests that it ought to change. He gives examples of successful interactions where preconceived notions about Haredim were changed. Like the following:

Over the last decade, the Karlin-Stolin community, led by the Rebbe himself, has hosted between 10-15,000 Jews in small groups for Shabbos meals. Last week, one of the Torah flyers distributed in national religious synagogues on leil Shabbos included a letter from a waiter at Shabbos gathering of 370 Karlin-Stolin [H]assidim. He wrote of the warmth and respect the Hassidim showed him, of how they saved a seat for him at the table and invited him to join them in their dancing, of how they washed so neatly so as to minimize the clean-up.

“Shabbos ended and so did all my stereotypes,” the waiter wrote. So moved was the waiter that he called the Rebbe himself, who cried with joy and exclaimed, “That’s how I educated them for decades — in ahavas Yisrael and mutual respect.”

He ends up saying that this is an example worth emulating. I agree. This is indeed the kind of behavior to emulate. But this is not enough. It isn’t only about PR. It is about actually sharing the burden of military service.

But even if we were just to follow Jonathan’s advice about PR – it will not happen. It is one thing to writing about this issue to a sympathetic public. But as long as the rabbinic leadership continues their harsh rhetoric – changing their approach along the lines of this one [H]asidic group will not happen. No matter how many times Jonathan – or how many writers like him say so.

Jonathan is not a rabbinic leader and neither are any of the common sense Haredi writers like him (R’ Yitzchok Adlerstein comes to mind). I think that in their heart of hearts, most Haredim would agree with Jonathan .But as long as rabbinic leaders live in the past and insist on calling the idea of ‘sharing the burden’ a Shas HaShmad – comparing even observant Jews like Naftali Bennett that advocate it to what Czarist Russia did over 100 years ago – there will be no change in that paradigm any time soon. Especially when an influential Haredi publisher like Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter salutes his Rebbe and asks how high up the flagpole he should climb! (…in honoring his directive to make sure that the Haredi public understands that it is unequivocally a Shas HaShmad).

A Mistaken Plea to Klal Yisrael

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

One of the most pressing issues facing Israel right now (at least internally) is the issue of “What to do about the Haredim.” I do not say this in any pejorative sense at all. But the fact happens to be that the last election was all about that.  This is a subject that gets discussed a lot here. And it may be tiring to keep reading about it. But the issue has not gone away and remains as controversial as ever. It has as of yet not been solved.

I purposely characterized this as an over-all problem and not just a problem with the draft. Drafting Haredim into the army is but one facet of a much larger multifaceted problem. Aside from ‘sharing the burden’ of military service by submitting to the draft in equal proportion to the rest of the population, there are issues of rising poverty; the increased reliance taxpayer funded government welfare programs for sustenance; the  lack of education; and the ability to get decent jobs. And they are all related.

Let me begin by first making clear (if it isn’t already obvious by my many posts on this subject) that I am not opposed to the Haredi way of life. Nor do I reject the philosophy of learning Torah full time as a legitimate Hashkafa – even though I do not see it exactly the same way they do. But even if I didn’t agree at all – people have a right to believe as they choose and act in accordance with their beliefs as long as they do not interfere with the rights of others. My only issue with Haredim is their unwillingness to accept – or at best to consider as second class – other Hashkafos. Like Torah U’Madah  or Torah Im Derech Eretz.

To the extent that Haredim in America are better educated and a lot more productive than their Israeli counterparts is to the extent that I support them. Yes, there are pockets where poverty is great and education poor to non-existent. Yet I think it is fair to say that most Amercian Haredim do get a basic secular education and in some cases go on to have professional careers. Or at least have to ability to do so. And the draft is not an issue here.

But as I mentioned so many times in the past – Israel is a whole other ballgame. Haredim in Israel are nowhere near where American Haredim are.  Haredi Hashkafos in Israel are so extreme that there is no such thing as education outside of Limudei Kodesh (religious studies) in high school and beyond.  There are some exceptions to that – but those schools are few and at best considered outside the mainstream.

I bring all this up in light of the lengthy cover story in Ami Magazine. Publisher Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter interviewed Rav Dovid Soloveitchik who is the son of R’ Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik (The Griz).  He is a leading rabbinic figure in the Israeli Haredi world and widely respected even among Haredim in America.  R’ Frankfurter studied in his Yeshiva (Brisk) for a year and considers himself a Talmid.

R’ Dovid summoned him to Israel and expressed the urgency of spreading the word about his (and the virtually all the rest of the Israeli rabbinic leadership’s) opposition to the draft. That they consider serving in the army a Shas HaShmad is no secret. He has spoken about this many times. I covered one of those times right here.

What makes this interview interesting for me is the fact that Rabbi Frankfurter actually asked him questions that I would have asked. Although he unhesitatingly accepts the answers from his Rebbe, I do not. He promised to ‘spread the word’ through his magazine and this cover story certainly did that. At least to paid subscribers or those who went out and bought the magazine.

But the questions were a lot better than the answers which can all be refuted. The question I am most referring to is the following.

Rabbi Frankfurter asked him why Haredim could not do both – learn and serve in the army at the same time. His answer was that Torah can have no Hesech HaDaas (interruption of focus and concentration). Torah requires exclusivity. If someone wants to learn Torah he cannot have anything else with it. He must give himself over to Torah completely. A Bachur must commit his whole life solely to Torah. And he quotes the Rambam (Hilchos Talumd Torah 3:6) to prove his point:

A person whose heart inspires him to fulfill this Mitzvah in a fitting manner and to become crowned with the crown of Torah should not divert his attention to other matters. He should not set his intent on acquiring Torah together with wealth and honor simultaneously.

This not only precludes serving in the army while learning, it precludes any possible preparation for the workplace via an even basic secular education.

With all due respect, to the Rosh HaYeshiva, this is hardly an argument for not having a dual army/Yeshiva program like hesder. Nor is it an argument (as implied by his response) to reject all limudei hol past 8th grade (where basic math and the Hebrew grammar are the only secular subjects taught).  What the Rambam must have meant is that it is indeed preferable to study Torah without any distraction. But I doubt very seriously that he meant that this should be the way of life for every single student from age 12 and up to the exclusion of ever learning how to make a livable wage.

If that were the case, the Rambam could never have studied medicine. He must have at some point done both. Perhaps his Torah study was at its best when he was not distracted by parnassa (livelihood) concerns. But I seriously doubt that he would tell anyone to ignore it. What he probably believed was that one should strive for pure Torah study. But not at the expense of learning to make a living. Else, how could he have become a doctor? He therefore must have also believed that it is legitimate to combine Torah study with preparation for a Parnassa. Either that, or he was not very good at taking his own advice.

The same argument can be made for the requirement to give up a couple of years to serve in the army. And if one can still study Torah during that time – like the hesder program does – all the better.

That secular studies harm Torah scholarship is disproved not only by the Rambam – who many say was an exception to his own rule because of his genius, but by his own cousins the Rav and Rav Ahron who both attended university, one receiving his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Berlin and the other a law degree from NYU. Is there anyone who would say that the Rav or R’ Aharon were deficient in Torah knowledge?

Lest anyone say that they too are geniuses, Rav Ahron clearly states that full time Torah study is not for everyone. Who says that every Haredi in Israel must learn full time from the moment he starts school until well after he is married with children? Rav Ahron might argue the reverse and say that geniuses in Torah like the Rambam should study full time and not be distracted by parnassa concerns. Everyone else should be kovieh itim (set aside regular times for Torah study) and serve God by what suits his intelligence and personality the best.

Returning to the issue of the draft – I completely reject R’ Dovid’s characterization of it being a Shas HaShmad. He compares it to Czarist times and characterizes what is going on now as a 100 percent war against the Torah.  I think it is quite clear that R’ Dovid is living in the past on this issue. He remembers Ben Gurion who personally saw no value in Halacha and thinks the current political leadership is no different.

For example Ben Gurion and his wife did not bother having a religious marriage ceremony. They only had a civil ceremony in New York. He refused to ever wear a kipa. He ate bread on Pesach. His concession to the Chazan Ish about maintaining the status quo – guaranteeing Haredim would continue their British mandated control over religious matters in the new State of Israel was entirely political. He did not want them to oppose the creation of a state in the U.N. which they were going to do. When he promised them that, they supported the creation of the State.

But things are not like that now. Had he paid attention to Yair Lapid during the election he would know that. Ever since the six day war and especially since the Begin era there has been an increase in the respect for Torah among Israeli leaders.  Unlike R’ Dovid, Haredi writers have taken note of the fact that the current Knesset has more observant Jews serving than at any time in history.

This is not a Shas Hasmad. If it were, I would support them. The more these rabbinic leaders say it is, the less credible they sound. Instead of ‘spreading the word’ the way R’ Dovid and his Shaliach (messenger) Rabbi Frankfurter are. They ought to sit down with the government and work out a compromise that everyone could live with.

Just like there was a divinity exemption in my day when America had a draft, so too there should be one in Israel. The only problem in Israel is that because of the philosophy of full time Torah study for everyone – every single Haredi man gets a divinity exemption. That is not right. Divinity exemptions are designed to produce clergy that will serve the populace. Not so that every single member of it becomes a member of the clergy.

With this philosophy in place, the Israeli government has no choice but to set up a quota system – where a certain percentage of young Talmudic scholars will be fully exempt and even subsidized by the government with a living wage. The rest must register and share the burden just like Dati and secular Israelis do. What that percentage should be can be negotiated by men of good will.

There should also be a track whereby a Haredi can both serve and continue his studies simultaneously the way Hesder boys do. And certainly religious sensitivities of Haredim must be honored so that their way of life is not compromised. Which means that Nachal Haredi and similar programs need to be improved and expanded.

I truly believe this approach or something like it is the best solution. But as long as Haredi rabbinic leaders like R’ Dovid Soloveitchik so stridently sees this as a Shas HaShmad, it will not happen.

As for injecting some secular studies into their curriculum to improve their lot… well… one step at a time.

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200 Haredim Drafted on Thursday

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

On Thursday, two hundred Haredim were drafted into the “Nahal Haredi” combat battalion, Netzach Yehuda.

According to the Ultra-Orthodox paper, Kikar Shabbat, this recent draft represents a 30% overall increase in the number of Haredi men drafted into the unit.

This Ultra-Orthodox army unit was first established in 1999 with just 35 soldiers. It now consists of 500 active combat soldier, and has become the largest individual combat battalion in the army.

In the previous draft, the unit drafted 150 Haredi soldiers.

In 2012, the Ultra-Orthodox battalion won the IDF’s Excellence Award for Judea and Samaria.

The Netzah Yehuda Battalion, also known as Nahal Haredi, is part of the IDF Kfir Brigade. The unit allows Haredi recruits to serve in an atmosphere conducive to their religious convictions, within a framework that is strictly halachically observant.

The unit is responsible for areas of operation around the Jenin area. The soldiers regularly go out on arrest missions in the area with a high rate of success.

The battalion lost its first casualty on August 19, 2006, when Muhammad Ban-Yuda, a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, shot and killed Staff Sergeant Roi Farjoun of Yehud at the Beka’ot Checkpoint east of Shchem. A Haredi soldier then opened fire and killed the terrorist.

A Brighter Future for Haredim in Israel

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Maybe I am a hopeless optimist. But I see a lot of changes happening in the Jewish world. And they seem to all be for the better.

One of those things is something that Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn wrote about today on his blog, Daas Torah. Rabbi Eidensohn is a Charedi Rav whose credentials are quite impressive. His Magnum Opus are the widely respected indices (in both Hebrew and English) to two of the greatest Halachic works of the 20th century: the Mishnah Berurah, by the Hafetz Haim and the Igros Moshe by R’ Moshe Feinstein. He has a Ph.D. in psychology and has also written books dealing with the issue of sex abuse. He is also very close to Rav Moshe Sternbuch.

In the most recent contribution Rabbi Eidensohn has made what I believe to be an astounding admission. Especially in light of the very name of his blog. He said that with the passing of R’ Elyashiv, there is really no more Daas Torah!

That is pretty shocking coming from someone who is as close to Rav Sternbuch as R’ Eidensohn is. It is also shocking in light of the fact that there is a conflict going on between two Charedi factions – each loyal to their own “candidate” as to who should succeed R’ Elayshiv for the ‘post’ of Gadol HaDor – the ultimate expositor of Daas Torah: R’ Aharon Leib Steinman or R’ Shmuel Auerbach.

I have often said that the rabbinic leaders of today are not the Gedolim of yesteryear. The right wing has always countered with the following expression from the Gemarah: Yiftach B’Doro, K’Shmuel B’Doro. What the Gemarah is telling us is that even though a later generation’s Gadol (Yiftach) is is not as great as a previous generation Gadol (Shmuel HaNavi)… they are the best we have and we must listen to them. And that what they tell us is still Daas Torah. And yet a man of R’ Eidensohn’s credentials says we have no longer have it!

I would disagree with him. I think we do have Daas Torah – individuals who can speak to us using the wisdom of the Torah they have achieved. I just don’t think it is necessarily or exclusively in the hands of Haredi Rabbanim. Especially when there is such infighting among them about who should be representing it to us.

Which brings me back to my original point. I am optimistic about recent developments in Israel with respect to the Haredi situation in Israel. It seems like the Haredi world of the past is doomed. I do not mean has v’shalom that it will disappear. Quite the contrary. I think it will be strengthened.

The new government in Israel (assuming it has any longevity to it at all – which is a real question) is determined to change the Haredi paradigm of full time Torah study for every male for as long as possible without any preparation for the workplace and exemption from any military service. This is something I have been advocating for decades.

The fear of this change is on the minds of virtually every rabbinic leader in Israel. So afraid of change are they that they see it as a shas hashmad – something which a Jew is supposed to give up his life for even if he is asked to violate the most minute mitzvah.

They fear that conscription of Haredim will destroy Yeshivos and that all serious Torah study will come to an end. Once a Haredi is drafted, and does his army stint, he will never return to serious Torah study. He will instead seek a job. This is existential for them. Life or death! To a man… it seems that every single Haredi rabbinic leader of all stripes – and even some of the more right wing Religious Zionist rabbis (Hardalim) – have all called for resistance to the draft in various forms. Like going to jail; or leaving the country to study Torah elsewhere.

But their fear is misplaced. The new government is not interested in destroying Torah Study – despite its even religious members being accused of it and being vilified by some of those rabbinic leaders. Neither Naftali Bennett nor even Yair Lapid can be compared to the Czarist Russia of old. They are interested in mainstreaming Haredim into society to be more productive – outside the beis hamedrash as well as inside.

Adding to their fear is the loss of power that Haredi parties have until now enjoyed. Even as their population numbers increase along with their representation in the Knesset, they are no longer part of the governing coalition. That means they will not have any cabinet posts or the power that goes with them to allocate funds to their cause.

This is kind of ironic considering all the predictions that say Haredim are growing at such a rapid rate that they will eventually become the majority. That may still be true at some point in the future. But if things go the way they are now, it will not be the same Haredi world that exists now. It may very well be a Haredi world that looks more like the American version. There seems to be some realization about that too. From Daniel Eidensohn:

My niece who attends a chareidi seminary for American girls here in Jerusalem – was recently told in all seriousness by a teacher that the New Chareidim constitute a serious threat to the Chareidi way of life and authority. My niece wasn’t sure what New Chareidim are and why they are so dangerous – as she leads a very sheltered chareidi life – typical of many American chareidim. She couldn’t understand why Israeli chareidim are so afraid of a way of life which is typical in America.

Indeed. This is what all the screaming by Israeli rabbinic leaders is all about. But as R’ Eidensohn says, Daas Torah no longer exists. And as I said these fears are misplaced. Instead of looking at this as a Shas HaShmad – they should be looking at this as an opportunity to get their community out of poverty and into the mainstream so that their members can better support their families.

I undernstand their fear. It is the fear of the unknown. Change means facing an unknown future. And they fear the worst. But the worst won’t happen. The IDF is not prepared to put every single young Charedi into the army. They don’t really have the room or the need. Although I still strongly feel that there should be no general exemption given to any single demographic group from being put in harm’s way, the reality is that most Israeli service personnel are not put in harm’s way – if I understand correctly. Most of the military jobs are not in the battlefield. Many soldiers have ancillary or supporting jobs. And exemptions exist outside of the Yeshiva world too.

My guess is that there will be a compromise that will require some sort of military commitment by most Charedim… but that it will be along the lines of the old Tal Law – that allowed Yeshiva students to stay in the Beis HaMedrash full time until age 23 or so… and then they will be required to do some sort of military service – perhaps combined with their continued Torah study. They will not have to completely leave the Beis Hamedrash. After fulfilling their military requirements, they can continue to learn in the Yeshivos they are in – and go back to full time study if they choose.

Some, on the other hand, may actually leave to find a job – and the skills they picked up via their army training will aid them in getting better jobs. Additionally full exemptions will probably be given to the top students in any case so their Torah study will continue full time without interruption. The percentage of those exemptions can be worked out amicably in my view. Where there is a will, there is a way.

The future that I see does not change the commitment to Torah study. It just allows for options that heretofore were not available.

I am not saying that the version of the future I just outlined will happen exactly in the way I suggested. It may take some sort of alternate form. But whatever form it takes it will be for the better. Because it can’t get much worse. There is no reason in the world why Haredim should continue to be the single biggest – and fastest growing – welfare demographic in all of Israel. The result will be the ‘new Haredi’ the teacher in that seminary so feared. And hopefully will stop fearing when she realizes the better world it has created for them.

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What Disturbs Me Most about the New Coalition

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

I don’t know if anyone’s happy with the new government, at least not in the Likud and Yisrael Beitenu parties.  There weren’t too many ministerial pickings left over after Bibi handed out the goodies to Livni, Lapid and Bennett.

There’s something that really bothers me about this coalition.  I felt it in my kishkes, and I had trouble saying what it really is…

There’s something inherently undemocratic in a government coalition which aims to change the lives of a large and growing sector of the country/society while refusing them the rights to join the coalition and help draft the laws to make the changes just and possible.

Yes, I’m referring to the forcing of Haredim to be drafted into the IDF.

Now please get me right.  I am not in favor of their (Haredi) universal policy idealizing a life a just learning Torah.  I don’t see it as Jewish.  It’s not.  It’s more like the Christian monasteries and nunneries with the crucial difference that the Haredim marry and are encourage to have lots of children.  It’s also a Christian, not Jewish, belief that “men of the cloth” shouldn’t bear arms, serve in armies etc.

But I don’t think its just nor moral for some sectors of society to try to legislate major changes in the lives of others.  It unfortunately smacks of the early days of the State of Israel when religious immigrant children were sent to secular Aliyat Hanoar schools and worse.

The making of changes must be done gradually and with the cooperation of the affected sector of society.  That means the the only fair, just and democratic way to increase the draft of Haredim must be done with their cooperation.  In recent years more Hareidim have joined the army, and more Hareidim are studying key secular subjects and professions and working.  This will take time.

Blocking Hareidim from the government coalition means that the government will seem like (or actually be) a dictatorship, rather than a democracy.

Netanyahu, Lapid, Bennett and Livni are making a big immoral and undemocratic mistake.

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Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/shiloh-musings/what-disturbs-me-most-about-the-new-coalition/2013/03/19/

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