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October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘exemptions’

Is Learning Torah ‘Sharing the Burden’?

Monday, March 11th, 2013

I have to respectfully disagree with the esteemed Mashgiach of Lakewood, Rav Matisyahu Salomon. An article in YWN quoted him as saying that the statement being made about Haredim in Israel not ‘sharing the burden’ is apikursus – heresy.

I suppose that the way he explains it, it might be heresy to say such a thing. To make the claim that learning Torah is not “sharing the burden” is indeed a slight to learning Torah. Learning Torah does help protect Israel from harm by its enemies just as a physical army does. Those are two necessary components.

But it is a gross misunderstanding to characterize “sharing the burden” in the way Rav Salomon does. The burden that is not shared – is the one that involves putting oneself in harm’s way. I can’t repeat this enough times. Rav Salomon cannot possibly think that yeshiva bachurim (lomdei Torah – those who study Torah) risk their lives in the same way as a solider in combat does. They are nowhere near harm’s way while they are in a Beis HaMedrash being protected by soldiers who do share the burden of risking life and limb.

Once again we see a great rabbinic figure who apparently does not understand what it is that really upsets the non-Haredi public – which includes many observant Jews. To say that our views are apikursus is both false and insulting – even if unintentionally so. Nor does Rav Salomon even attempt to give credit to those who do risk life and limb protecting those lomdei Torah – as did a Gadol of the previous generation, Rav Chaim Shmulevitz.

How sad it is that a leader of such great stature in the Haredi world feels he has to insult so many observant Jews in order to make his point about the importance of learning Torah. Would it not serve Klal Yisroel better if he were to first acknowledge the contributions of those who do serve in the IDF?

And wouldn’t it also serve Klal Yisroel better if he were to understand that “sharing the burden” means participating in the risk to life and limb equally… and not meant to denigrate the contributions of lomdei Torah to our survival as a nation?

Statements such as those made by Rav Salomon are very upsetting. Is there any wonder why there is such a lack of Achdus in Klal Yisroel? But all is not lost. I do in fact agree with his final paragraph:

HaRav Solomon said if there are מקטרגים (opponents; detractors) on the Torah, the Gra teaches us that this is a sign of the תביעות (claims) against us in Shomayim [Heaven] and while today we do not have prophets, one can know this is bases on מידה כנגד מידה (measure for measure) and we must look and see from where the פורענות (troubles) come from and this is the area where the teshuvah [repentance] and מעשים טובים (good deeds) must be focused.

Indeed. Perhaps God is sending a message about an area that needs improvement. And perhaps the first place his community should be looking at is in how they have reacted to this very issue. Perhaps if they would treat those of us who have made this statement (about sharing the burden) with a measure of understanding and respect instead of calling us apikursim, we would return that respect and understanding measure for measure.

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Disappointed But Not Surprised

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

I know that this is their view. Nonetheless, it still pains me when I see them saying so in such stark black and white terms. I am referring to the recent statement by the Agudah Moetzes endorsing the views of their Israeli counterparts on the issue of drafting Yeshiva students. They are obviously very opposed.

While I accept that the members of the Moetzes are talmidei hachamim with few peers; and that their views should be respected, I have to say that there are times – like this one – that makes it very difficult for me to do so. Not because I don’t respect their knowledge. Nor do I suspect that their views are anything but l’shem shomayim – for the sake of heaven. I truly believe that they are selfless human beings that have dedicated their lives to doing the will of God and serving Klal Yisroel.

Here is a translation of their most recent proclamation from the Baltimore Jewish Life:

We are deeply dismayed by the efforts in Eretz Yisroel to draft B’nei Yeshiva and remove them from the Beis Medrash, the wellspring of Torah to which they dedicate their days and nights. The perseverance and security of Hashem’s people are rooted in its dedication to Torah study, as Chazal comment on the posuk “Our feet were standing at your gates, Yerushalayim”: “What will enable our feet to stand firm in war? The gates of Yerushalayim, where [Jews] devote themselves to Torah study.”

We appeal to the members of the government in Israel not to take any steps that will in any way negatively affect the B’nei Yeshiva and their study of Torah. For Torah study is “our life and the length of our days,” which will “lead us, upright, forever.” Like I said, this is no surprise. But it bothers me just the same. I understand the issue. They say that Torah study is what saves the world. That without it, the world would cease to exist… and that certainly Torah study is what protects the Jewish people. Granted. But what this statement does not say is that security requires not only Torah study but in the case of Israel – an army. This very simple fact – and it is a fact – was acknowledged in public by Rav Haim Shmulevitz, a Gadol of an earlier generation. I can’t even count anymore the times I’ve quoted this revered sage of the 20th century on this issue. He did not make it up. Nor is there any rabbinic opposition to this fact. It is the truth. It’s called hishtadlus – maximum mental and physical effort. Hishtadlus in this case requires that we do whatever earthly things we can to accomplish the goal of protecting Jewish lives. Which means that we do not rely on miracles. If there were no army, there would be no hishtadlus. It is true that Torah holds up the world. But as R’ Haim said we need not only a spiritual army. We need a physical army as well. If that were not so, there would no such thing as a milchemes mitzvah (a war mandated by God). We would just all sit in a beis hamedrash and study Torah until our enemies were destroyed by fire and brimstone from heaven. David HaMelech captured Jerusalem not by staying in the beis hamedrash but by going to war.

This statement does not address that issue. Nor does it answer the pain and suffering of families whose sons have been maimed or killed in doing their hishtadlus in battle, while yeshiva students do theirs in relative safety. The idea of “sharing the burden” which is what proponents of drafting Haredim want – is based on this kind of inequity. Why do they not address it? How can they not? How can they just say they are dismayed by a possible draft without addressing this issue?

Nor do they explain why they feel that the status quo ante should remain untouched in any way? I could better understand if they had said that there ought not be a draft for Haredim – if they qualified it with the requirement to root out those who are faking it or just going through the motions because of peer pressure. Or maybe even those who are learning but not quite at the level one would expect of someone who is Torah umnaso (Torah is his job).

Rabbis! Lead the Way in Battle!

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

That’s right. The time has returned for Rabbis to lead the way in battle. That’s the way it was in the past and that’s how it should be today. Who’s better for the job – some bleeding-heart leftist commander who has too much compassion on the enemy and puts his Jewish soldiers in danger? The Rabbis know the nature of the Amalekites of our time, and understand that their evil darkness must be erased from the Earth, in order for the light of God to shine, as King David vowed, “I will pursue my enemies and come upon them, and not turn back until they are destroyed.”

We met the Amalekites in the Torah reading on Shabbat. As the newborn Nation of Israel starts its journey across the desert, Amalek attacks us out of pure hatred alone, not wanting the light of Israel to brighten the world. Moshe orders his top Torah student, Joshua, to lead the Jews into battle. Not only is Joshua the Torah genius of his generation, a round-the-clock student of Torah in Moshe’s tent, he is infused with a spirit of bravery and strength to defend the honor of the Hashem and his chosen Nation, Israel. Moshe stands on a peak overlooking the battleground and raises his hands toward the sky to remind the Israeli “Hesder” warriors to trust in Hashem, but in the midst of the fight, his arms become heavy, and Aharon and Hur must support them and keep them aloft.

Why did his hands become heavy? In punishment, as Rashi explains: “Because he was slothful in the commandment (of waging war himself) and he appointed another in his stead, so his hands became heavy.”

That’s right, my friends! Moshe Rabenu, the greatest Torah scholar of all time, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, was punished for not leading the very first Israel Defense Force battalion to war against the enemies of God!

I have more news for you, my good friends. Among the commandments of the Torah, there is a commandment to go to war against the enemies of Israel and Hashem, to defend Jewish life, and to conquer the Land of Israel and keep it under Israeli sovereignty. Faced with a war of this nature, called “Milchemet Mitzvah,” everyone goes forth to battle, including a groom from under the wedding canopy. Not only are Torah students and Rabbis included in this mitzvah, it was the great Torah giants of past, Moshe, Joshua, King David, and Rabbi Akiva, who led the way, as examples to everyone else.

Today, the Israel Defense Force is engaged in a Milchemet Mitzvah, in both of its aspects – protecting Jewish life from enemies who seek our destruction, and maintaining Israeli sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael. True, during intervals in the fight, everyone who isn’t needed at the front, goes back to learning Torah day and night, but when the battle is raging, everyone enlists. There are no exemptions.

With the formation of a new government in Israel frantically underway, political parties calling for everyone to share equally in the military burden has become the key issue. The time has come to cast off the distorted understanding of Judaism which pictures Talmidei Chachamin as weak and scrawny figures, bent over their Talmudic tomes, engaged only in spiritual pursuits, detached from their bodies and the world around them. This was appropriate during the exile in foreign lands when we were at the mercy of the goyim, without any national structure of our own, without our own Holy Land to defend, and without any arms to fight against our enemies. Today, all that has changed. With the return to our Land, the Milchemet Mitzvah of the Torah has returned in full force. Everyone is obligated to share in the battle!

Yes, the Israeli army must be made glatt kosher to meet the needs of religious soldiers. Yes, if the army can do without them, then deferrals must be granted to allow top Torah students to continue uninterrupted with their learning for six or eight years before they are drafted, because that is in the supreme defense of the Nation too. The Hesder yeshivot have proven that Torah scholars can be strong in learning and strong in battle. The Rabbis of the religious Zionist community serve in the army; why shouldn’t Haredi Rabbis also be brave examples for their students, just like Moshe, and Joshua, and King David, and lead the way in eradicating the enemies of who rise up against Israel – for the sake and betterment of humanity – that the light of true compassion and justice can shine in the world, through the annihilation of the evildoers who seek to prevent the word of God from being established on Earth.

Rabbis! Lead the way!

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/rabbis-lead-the-way-in-battle/2013/01/29/

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