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November 26, 2014 / 4 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘haredi draft’

Rumor: Draft Committee to Launch Special Chabad Track

Monday, February 10th, 2014

The Knesset committee working on the new draft bill have decided to add a third special track, in addition to the “hesder” track for religious Zionists, and the Haredi track: the Chabad Lubavitch track, Kikar Hashabbat reported.

Over the next three days, the Knesset committee working on the conscription law, chaired by Jewish Home MK Ayelet Shaked, will prepare its final draft that will include, among other changes, shortening the service period for all enlisted IDF soldiers, adding a month to the hesder yeshiva track, and creating the Chabad track.

According to a Chabad rabbi speaking to Kikar hashabbat, the Chabad track will have different, and presumably easier conditions than those offered to Haredi yeshiva students.

The bill presented for a second vote on Tuesday permits Chabad yeshiva students ages 18-20 to leave the country to one destination: 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, NY, the world center of Chabad Lubavitch. They will stay there for two years, come back home, get married and spend one year in Kolel. Then they will enlist, as per the determination by the IDF. They, too, like Haredi students, will be permitted to ask for a delay of service until age 24.

This will end, once and for all, the ongoing problem faced by Lubavitch youths who stay in America and then face charges of desertion upon their return, with some actually serving jail time. Now they can take their time and stay in Crown Heights with the IDF approval.

According to the current draft, before the Tuesday vote, the hesder students will be serving an additional month, as prescribed originally by the Perry Committee, totaling their service at 17 months. Non-hesder soldiers will serve 32 months, down from 36.

Minister Naftali Bennett, chairman of the Jewish Home, celebrated the new bill on his Facebook page, saying that, “for the first time in many decades, the government is acting to connect the Haredi public with the world of employment and service.”

“Without this move, the State of Israel would have been trapped in an enormous socio-economic crisis in a few years,” Bennett added, promising: “in a few weeks we will change the reality in Israel.”

It might be a sign of a good law when it is hated by many in the Haredi public as well as on the left. MK Eliezer Stern of Tzipi Livni’s movement, who served as head of HR in the IDF and wears a yarmulke, accused Jewish Home of hypocrisy, by making a mockery of the idea of equal burden, which the new draft law was supposed to fix. According to Stern, the hesder yeshiva track, which started out as a great thing, has become corrupt over the years, with men who are registered in hesder yeshivas actually doing other things and getting to serve a shorter term.

Minister Yaakov Perry, whose committee actually wrote the original draft with the 17-month allotment to religious Zionist hesder soldiers, now accused Jewish Home of weakening the demands from Haredim. He promised a fight on the Knesset floor over the special terms awarded Haredim, seeing these as a rehashing of the faults of the Tal Law, which the Supreme Court annulled for its failure to introduce changes fast enough.

It’s true that the Tal Law was moving slowly, getting between 2,000 and 2,500 Haredim into the army each year. But even Perry’s version of the new law only envisioned 3,200 IDF recruits, out of 5,200 recruits altogether, with the remaining 2,000 doing national service in their own communities.

The additional 1,000 Haredi soldiers will hardly make a difference in terms of the IDF means, but will provide a wedge issues to be used effectively by both the left and the Haredi political parties, each riling up their voters to resist the “injustice.”

Rambam, Yeshiva Exemptions, and Intellectual Dishonesty

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

A while ago, I noticed in the back of a popular vocalized edition of the Mishna Berurah an appendix titled Kuntres Hahanhagot Ve’Inyanei Mitzvot Hateluyot Ba’aretz, which ostensibly covers contemporary practices and laws exclusive to Israel. The title page gives no source or attribution for these rulings, though I’m sure one of my more inquisitive loyal readers will track down the author. But knowing who wrote these decisions is irrelevant for this post, only the content of the argument. In particular, it is a wonderful example of intellectual dishonesty from the selective citation of sources.

The topic under consideration is the exemption of yeshiva students from serving in the Israeli army. This controversial policy will no doubt continue to be debated for years to come. But beyond any social implications there are important halakhic considerations to this exemption. If defending the land of Israel is considered a “milkhemet mitzvah” then everyone is obligated to serve, even, to use the Mishna’s idiom “a groom from his room and a bride from her wedding canopy” (M. Sotah 8:7).1 Thus regardless of any civil exemption provided by the government, yeshiva students who are theoretically concerned with keeping Jewish law, must also rely on a religious exemption from performing their military obligations. The Kuntres offers such a solution based on Shemita Ve’Yovel 13:12-13. In the first entry under “laws of the community” the Kuntres writes:

 בן ישיבה אינו לוי מהצד ההלכתי, אבל מהצד הרעיוני, הוא בגדר שבט לוי. וכך דברי הרמב”ם בסוף הלכות שמיטה ויובל: “הובדלו מדרכי העולם לא עורכין מלחמה כשאר ישראל… אלא הם חיל ה… ולא שבט לוי בלבד אלא כל איש ואיש מכל באי העולם אשר נדבה רוחו לעמוד לפני ה” עכ”ל. מכאן שזכות גדולה לעם ישראל בשחררו בני תורה מגיוס, ואפילו במלחמת מצוה.

A yeshiva student is not a Levite from a halakhic perspective, but from a logical perspective he is within the scope of being of the tribe of Levi. And this is what Rambam writes at the end of the laws of Shemita and Yovel, “[the Levites] are separated from the ways of the world, they do not arrange wars like the rest of Israel…rather they are soldiers of God…and not only members of the Levite tribe alone but rather any person from the people of the world who dedicate their spirit to stand before God.” From here [we infer] that it is a great merit for the Jewish nation to free the children of Torah from the draft, even for a war of obligation.

Based on the portions of Rambam cited, the argument is as follows:

  1. Levites are supposed to be exempt from war because they are soldiers to God
  2. Anyone who dedicates a life of service to God is considered like a Levite
  3. Yeshiva students dedicate their lives to serving God
  4. Therefore yeshiva students ought to be exempt from the draft.

While this is not the only halakhic defense for the yeshiva exemption one can find, it is perhaps one of the most dishonest. First, the kuntres assumes that Levites are exempt from milchmet mitzvah – not just milchemet reshut – yet Rambam states that a king can “force the nation” to go to war with no mention of any Levite exemption (Melachim 5:2).

But perhaps more importantly, Rambam would not support the subsidized yeshiva system currently in place in Israel. According to Rambam anyone who gets married before securing an income to support himself is a “fool” (De’ot 5:11), but specifically those who decide to study Torah without working under the expectation that they will be supported through charity, “desecrates the name of God, shames the Torah, extinguishes the light of the law, causes evil to himself, and removes his life from the world to come – for it is prohibited to benefit from the words of Torah in this world” (Talmud Torah 3:10).

This is evident from the passage referenced by the Kuntres but conveniently excised in his ellipses, in which Rambam defines for these “soldiers of God”2 what appears to be a monastic lifestyle. In Shemita Ve’Yovel 13:13 Rambam continues:

 ויהיה י”י חלקו ונחלתו לעולם ולעולמי עולמים ויזכה לו בעה”ז דבר המספיק לו כמו שזכה לכהנים ללוים

God should be his portion in the world, and he should merit to have in this would what is sufficient for him, just as the Priests and Levites.

f an individual wishes to dedicate his life to God, that is of course his decision. However, there is no indication according to Rambam that he is in any way entitled to public funds or has a right to demand support from the community.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/rambam-yeshiva-exemptions-and-intellectual-dishonesty/2013/06/11/

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