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Haredi students at the Ponovitz Yeshiva.

Summary: Part 1

Many today speak of sinat chinom, senseless and futile hatred flowing through the streets of Israel against religious people, often triggered and fanned by the avowed anti-religious media. As an antidote, some have suggested adopting the late giant Rav Kook’s, zt’l, alternative, ahavat chinom, simply to love. However utopian and noble as it sounds, it is a built-in contradiction given the prevailing ambiance, each side blaming the other for the dilemma


In truth, there is no senseless hatred, since most hatred has conditions attached to it. How does one love another who just stole his wife, dealt treacherously in business, or whatever, in the spirit of “stam love”? He doesn’t. How does a secular Jew in Israel love the haredi when, he argues, the haredi seems to violate his democratic and Zionist principles and poisons the social waters in the process? He doesn’t. And how can the haredi love those who continue violating principles of decency and morality, or who advocate a distorted relationship between God, country, and nation, just to accommodate those less fortunate seculars who still have not tasted the wonderful wellsprings of Torah? He doesn’t.


In Defense of Torah

And when in defense of Torah, an editorial or two appears in an Orthodox publication rallying against those who refuse to believe in Torah, that Torah is vibrant and alive without labeling it Khoumeinism, he will deny and try to hide his secular despair in face of rising crime, violence, family abuse, immorality and murder, suicide, infidelity, perfidy and lawlessness and drug abuse rampant in the schools and streets of the non-Torah neighborhoods. Deep down, it is not religion the hater rallies against and tries to bury! It is his own bankruptcy and desperate loyalty to foreign cultures that he clings to. Deep down he knows that the old political and social ideas have long ago been proven as an ineffective defense against the evils of the modern democracy. To the hater it is far better to save the environment and whales than a child in Kiryat Shmona or Beer Sheva who chooses to follow the tradition of his parents and grandparents all the way back to our father Abraham. Even his “tolerance” of other religions and the respect he outwardly seems to project is motivated by fear of not being accepted among the goyim, and more so, his transparent attempt to make sure that Torah does not become exclusive once again in Israel. His own psychotic hatred is actually aimed against the entire Torah world, and not just in Israel. Sadly, at the opposite end of any Torah reality and or favorable argument, there you will always find that anti-Torah dybbuk, indeed the Leftist par excellence, struggling to stay alive.

The Gemara (Pes. 69b) explains that the fierce hatred of the am ha’aretz for the Torah even surpasses that of the gentile nations towards Israel (and not because of any “peace” process), and their wives even more extremely (their souls inherently knowing that by the absence of Torah in their lives they renounce their own rights to a better world in this world and even unto the next). Despite everything, the hatred will not cease, and all the monies in the government will not extinguish this hatred emanating from the am ha’aretz for the Torah and its adherents. It’s that “what do you think; you’re better than me?” attitude.

In his vision of a Torah-free utopia, the Torah hater’s venom is poured out lavishly on the thousands of Yeshiva boys, studying, preparing for the work force as dayanim, teachers, and mashgichim, as well as community rabbis to serve without distinction whenever called upon. Indeed, there are three times in life every Jew will need their services: at birth, at a wedding, and after 120. But since he cannot stand that Israel should be Jewish, his hatred keeps blinding him even to his own self-interests. Arguments will run the gamut from “I don’t want to support thousands of Yeshiva boys! Let them go out to work. They don’t serve in the army. The Yeshiva boys are non-productive parasites. They contribute nothing,” ad nausea.

But who buries the dead? Who marries off the poor? Who maintains the Batei Din, religious courts, etc, part of every Jewish person’s life? After 120, who will say kaddish after him, if not taught by those very rabbanim and yeshiva boys who dedicate their lives to Torah? The Yeshiva bochur hater really want Torah to be forgotten again in Israel.

Pushing the argument further, aside from the Torah leadership and others involved in governing and guiding the Jewish people returned to their homeland, in practical terms, where are all the stam baalei batim, good Torah Jews going to come from, if not the Yeshivas? Who is going to prepare for the future Temple service?

And if you will ask, for example, where will our future Sanhedrin come from, if thousands of boys will not continue studying Torah? And from where will emerge that greatest of all Torah minds, that one appointed representative from the House of David who will eventually bring about the Complete Redemption, if not from the Torah world today? The Torah hater will answer something like, “When Moshiach comes, we’ll worry about that. But for now, who needs them?”

What they want to conveniently forget is that, just as Israel supports colleges and universities, pouring in millions of dollars to produce that one doctor, lawyer, scientist, judge and others for the benefit of all of Israel, similarly, Israel must invest in Torah universities for the future soul of all of Israel. This means that one thousand students must be able to enter the study hall, in order that one perfect candidate for the Sanhedrin will eventually emerge.

And finally, calling a spade a spade, while the Torah hater loves jumping on the Yeshiva bochur bashing bandwagon, rarely will we hear him complaining about the millions the kibbutzim skimmed off the Israeli government over the last 50-60 years.

On other fronts, overall statistics have offered that almost one-quarter of all male Israelis are dodging the draft. This means that out of an approximate 6,000,000 million Jewish population, 1,500,000 Israelis are avoiding military service for various reasons. If half of them are listed as studying in a Yeshiva, according to IDF Manpower Chief, their “trade” being their studies, and leaving aside exemptions for health, family (loss of a brother in service, and more), the remaining, simply put, are shirking their duty for no other reason than a lack of ideology, patriotism, or responsibility. Theirs is selfish culture. And what do they have to show for it? Hedonism at the shopping malls, naked displays in Tel Aviv, discos and bar-rooms bulging to capacity, and the obnoxious “ugly Israeli”, shunned by most civilized societies wherever they are found.

The Yeshiva bochur, on the other hand (many now are joining Nahal and Haredi units in the IDF, remains in Israel, gets married and struggles to raise his family, a large one at that! Many will end up with rabbinic ordination and then provide vital religious services to the entire Israeli society as community rabbis, as teachers in the many school systems, as Dayanim in the religious courts, as mashgichim (kashrut supervisors), and as members in the various burial societies – their services required by everyone throughout his life, in one way or the other. By comparison, most former kibbutznik draft-dodgers are now the big businessmen, realtors and world travelers, who take their money and sit fressing trefe (eating pork and other non-kosher foods) in California, Florida and throughout the world.

The Yeshiva bochur hater will argue as “proof” against the “religious” people that they are dishonest, immoral, liars and cheats. But to the real Torah person, they’re crooks no different than non-religious others who cheat on income tax, speed, and sometimes act immorally. It’s that “what do you think; you’re better than me?” attitude. But putting things into proper perspective, are not the Torah-people generally more respectful of law and order than many others, and by their very being and example help advance the future of all klal Yisrael? And if this is too much for the non-Torah person to bear in Israel, then let his money and look for greener pastures elsewhere.

This is the real Israel everyone wants to hide, even as they resent the moneys given to Yeshivas. In fairness, just look at their children and their morality, and then compare this with the character and morality of non-Torah-people.

Israel is Jewish. Torah is Jewish. The yeshiva boys are Jewish. Not only should we not be ashamed of them, but they should be praised and glorified as examples of everything good in a society, even while protecting, in a spiritual sense, the less learned. Israel is not unique because of its football players! What makes Israel different is its commitment to Torah study and its dissemination. That’s why the world hates us! The Gemara (Shab. 89a) “Why is it called Har Sinai?” Because from there descended hatred into the world. Rashi explains because they did not in the end receive the Torah.

If the Yeshiva person finds it hard to survive and must jump from kolel to kolel to continue learning and support his family, then his stipends should be increased, as was the case throughout the generations of Torah when that obligation was taken upon the townspeople and individual baale batim with loving graciousness to support them on kest – a custom adopting a Yeshiva bachur for a fixed period of time.

Tragically, on one hand, our generation has failed to adequately explain the pivotal place of Yeshivot today in the Redemption, and on the other, the negative image of Yeshivot even among the Yeshiva boys themselves breeds contempt.

A student once complained bitterly to Reb Chaim about the poor level of learning at the Yeshivot today, compared to what Yeshivot used to be in Europe. He argued that they were a bunch of batlanim. They do not learn as they are supposed to and, what’s more, they are the scorn of those haters of Torah who ridicule them as loafers and parasites living off the community.

Reb Chaim responded by saying that perhaps they are not the level of what Yeshivot should be, and certainly not on the level of Yeshivot in Europe, but they are the feet that have supported Torah throughout the generations. And if they are weak feet, what should we do? If we cut them off then we will have no feet altogether. Let them be, he said. Perhaps now they are weak. But they are the only feet we have. Soon they will become strong, he assured. You will see. And these feet will carry the Torah forward onto the eventual Sanhedrin. Unfortunately, what they see today is the political Torah, not the pure Torah miSinai that will eventually replace the present weak feet that we rest upon. You must never put down the Torah world, just some of their ignorance especially as it relates to Eretz Yisrael, Reb Chaim concluded.

Also, it is important to remember the relationship of the Yeshiva bochur to the Redemption, and the Alternative. Without Torah, there cannot be a complete Redemption. Without Yeshivot there will be no Torah, axiomatically, without Yeshivot and Torah there cannot be the shichrur ha’nefesh – the redemption of the “soul” and understanding our tekufa.

The problem is that many otherwise fine people still have not learned to appreciate that without Torah there can be no Eretz Yisrael, and without Eretz Yisrael, the Torah cannot be complete. As a child, I remember singing, (in Hebrew school), “Eretz Yisrael without Torah is like a body without a neshama.” And opposite, without a body, the soul would have no place to rest and fulfill its function accordingly.

After Jews having suffered thousands of years of persecution and prejudice throughout the long Exile because of their love and loyalty to Torah study, it is ironic that here in Israel, back in our homeland, there still are some who argue that we don’t need to support Yeshiva boys today.

It is another verification of the last days described in the Gemora Sota where it says the Sages will be despised. It is nothing less than the gasping breath of Satan himself trying to hold back the glorious prophecy of the land being filled with knowledge of God through Torah study, and when God says[i] “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people.”

[i] Yirmiyahu 30:25.

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Rabbi Yehuda Schwartz discusses current issues on Eretz Yisrael from a Torah perspective gained from the many years drinking from the wellspring of the Great Gaon Harav Chaim Zimmerman, זצ"ל.