Photo Credit:
Sherut Leumi participants with young students

The funny thing is, the Charedi leadership got their way. The government has legislated a complete exemption from doing national service of any kind for religious women. As long as a woman can show that she is religious, she can apply and receive an exemption. Thankfully most Religious Zionist women do not use that option and serve.

I would ask Jonathan and anyone else in the Charedi world to explain why Sherut Leumi is so vigorously opposed by the Charedi leadership. Some have said that Sherut Leumi’s mere association with the army makes it part of the army and is therefore subject to the same degree of opposition. But if the concern is really one of Arayos (prevention of illicit sex) – then in my view that is an insufficient explanation.


I have heard it said that when the Chazon Ish was asked to explain what the Halachic basis was for his opposition. He answered by was pointing to his heart and saying something like, ‘I know it in here’. He did not offer a Halachic explanation and indicated knowing it intuitively.

This is where the Charedi version of Daas Torah come in. It is pronouncements like this where no Halachic basis is offered but is instead based on the intuition of a Gadol that perplexes many of us.

The Charedi reasoning is as follows. A Gadol’s intuition is based on his superior knowledge of Torah. His vision about what God wants is therefore clearly superior by far than anyone else’s. No matter how learned one is in Torah, their opinions are nullified in comparison to someone like the Chazaon Ish. So that when his decision about Sherut Leumi is made, it is iron clad Daas Torah. Puzzling and counter-intuitive though it may be to the rest of us.

I side with the Religious Zionist rabbis who support Sherut Leumi. True their knowledge of Torah is subordinate to the Chazaon Ish. But when it is so obvious that the reasons for his opposition do not exist, I cannot help but question it. The Chazaon Ish is fallible.

I don’t know how many women who have participated in Sherut Leumi have been sexually harassed or abused. But I would be willing to bet that it is a lot fewer than religious women who opted out of it and chose instead to go to work in the private sector.

If the Charedi leadership is going to continue to have this attitude of Yehoreg V’Al Ya’avor, they must provide a Halachic basis for it. Relying on the intuition of a Gadol (or Gedolim) of the past before the system was ever implemented no longer suffices. We now have evidence of its success. The Chesed it provides would probably not exist without it. If they cannot provide a Halachic basis for it, they ought to end their opposition and instead encourage their young women to participate.


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Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at [email protected].