Rav Aharon Feldman on the Attack on Torah in Eretz Yisroel

R’ Yaakov Menken at Cross Currents wrote up this important talk from Rav Aharon Feldman discussing the governmental anti-Torah atmosphere in Eretz Yisroel.

Shabbos Parshas Chukas was the annual “Shabbos of Chizuk,” when leading Rabbis at the Ner Israel Rabbinical College (which is located in Baltimore County, about 5 miles north of the Orthodox neighborhoods of Northwest Baltimore) spend Shabbos in the community, speaking to encourage Torah study and learning. The Rosh Yeshiva [Dean] himself, HRH”G Rav Aharon Feldman, shlit”a, spoke at the Agudath Israel of Baltimore after mincha.

I was surprised that he chose to speak about the situation going on now in Israel, on a Shabbos talk intended to strengthen learning and attachment to the Yeshiva. But the Rosh Yeshiva explained that this discussion is critical. The situation is very serious, and many American Jews don’t understand the extent to which this is so. People think, what is wrong if Orthodox Jews serve in the Army? And what is wrong if they study math and science, like American students do?

The following day, I wrote up my best recollection of the Rosh Yeshiva’s remarks, for his corrections and approval before publication. But even better, the Rosh Yeshiva was invited to deliver an improved and expanded version of his remarks to a larger audience in Toronto, via video. With appreciation to the Rosh Yeshiva and the organizers, the following is excerpted from both addresses.

One must begin with history. At the founding of the state, the Zionist establishment needed to show that all of Jewry was under their umbrella. The state and religious Jews, though, had diametrically opposed definitions of what it means to be a Jew. The Zionist definition is a nationalist one. According to the religious definition, a Jew is part of a nation that received the Torah at Har Sinai, adheres to its laws, and believes that it is a nation because of the giving of the Torah.

Some Jews chose not to back the state. Our Gedolim felt that they could join with the state, on condition that they be granted autonomy. They would have their own education system, and other autonomous rights. This was the basis of the status quo agreement. Whatever took place before the formation of the state would continue in the same manner: the laws of marriage, Shabbos as a day of rest, and religious Jews would have an autonomous education system.

Soon after the founding of the state, Ben-Gurion went to visit the Chazon Ish to persuade him that religious Jews should be drafted into the Army. Ben-Gurion said that the state could not survive without it. The Chazon Ish countered that the Torah could not survive with it. The Torah has a 3500 year record of survival, while Zionism was a nationalistic theory with no real ideology — and the latter must yield.

The Chazon Ish knew that Torah learning could not flourish, and Gedolim could not develop, if youngsters spent three of their most formative years in the Army. But even more important, Ben-Gurion wanted the Army to be a melting pot for immigrants from all over the world, to forge them into a new nation. Charedi Jews did not, and do not, want to be melted down. Living in an environment of chilul Shabbos, rampant immorality, and questionable Kashrus is toxic for our youth.

What Charedi parent in the United States would send his son to dorm in a co-ed secular university for three years? There are parents who do this, but we also know the tragic results. This is why we have separate schools, separate newspapers, no television, no unfiltered Internet. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on education systems that isolate our children from secular culture.

The politicians’ promises to the Charedim are like all promises of politicians. You don’t need to be a general to understand that a general cannot issue a command to march tomorrow, call up the commander of the Charedi unit, and have the other say “wait a minute, tomorrow is Sukkos, I have to ask my Rav if we’re allowed to march.” You can’t run an Army in that fashion, and the Army itself says so. Benny Gantz, Chief of General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, told Shas Knesset member Nissim Zeev that it is simply not practical to have large numbers of charedi-only units. An Army must be integrated, and at the most they could handle one more battalion like Nachal Charedi.

The Hesder model is not truly separate, and the results are predictable; a large proportion of them are lost to Judaism. According to Rav Eliezer Melamed, Rosh Yeshiva of the Religious-Zionist Yeshiva Har Brachah, 20% come out completely secular. Those who return to Yeshiva are weakened in their commitment to Torah. When I moved to Israel, the Religous Zionist party had thirteen seats in the government, and today they have five. This is in no small part due to the secularization of their youth in the Army.

Even were it true that it had the status of pikuach nefesh, which it does not, Charedim cannot serve in the Army. Spiritual pikuach nefesh is of no lesser importance than physical pikuach nefesh. We should have the status of conscientious objectors in any democratic society.

So they say that instead, students should leave Yeshiva and stop learning Torah for “public service.” How absurd! Learning Torah ensures the survival of the Jewish people; it has done so for thousands of years, and, as we have seen before our eyes, it rejuvenated American Jewry after the Holocaust. Learning Torah should not be considered on a par with changing bedpans in a hospital?! How outrageous that this should be suggested in a Jewish state! Without Torah, there would be no Jewish state, no claim to the land of Israel. How can learning Torah not be considered a valid public service?

Now let us turn to the attempt by the government to introduce secular subjects into our educational system. We may wonder, why do we object to introducing the same subjects taught in American Torah high schools? But we cannot judge Israel like the United States. The problems and challenges are different, and the ways that we must respond to those problems are different.

Lapid’s party says that they have to impose these changes on the Charedim, because they will not do it otherwise. How helpful! Did he ask the Charedim what they want? Shouldn’t the natural leaders of the Charedim be consulted before making such changes?

One of Lapid’s cohorts, who is a Rabbi, has said that the Gedolim are against any changes in their society for “corrupt” reasons. This is the word he used. He obviously never came into contact with Gedolei Yisroel. According to him, only Lapid is uncorrupted, only he does not care for power and fame — he whom Time magazine describes as “walking with the swagger of someone who expects to become Prime Minister.” Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman shlit”a, Rav Chayim Kanievsky shlit”a, Rav Shmuel Auerbach shlit”a, cannot be trusted to care about the Charedi community… only Lapid, the television host turned politician, son of perhaps the most rabid charedi-hater in Israeli history.

Nowhere in the world would they act so paternalistically towards a minority. Imagine the United States government telling the Amish, “you are not productive enough, and this is why you are poor. Therefore we are enacting laws to force you to stop using the horse and wagon. Oh, but we’re not doing this out of discrimination or lack of respect for what you’re doing, but for your own benefit.” What an uproar would sweep America!

Why does this happen in Israel? In truth, it doesn’t happen in Israel either, except with the Charedim. Do you know how they teach arithmetic in Israeli Arab schools? “Ten Jews are standing at a bus stop. A suicide martyr kills seven of them. How many Jews are left?” Yet we dare not interfere with their educational system.

Even from a secular standpoint, the primary purpose of education should not be to expand a government’s tax base, but to educate young people to be human beings. Thank you, Mr. Lapid, but we don’t need your help. We don’t need the assistance of a morally bankrupt society, in which you can buy nearly everything with bribery, in which two presidents and seven ministers have been indicted. We don’t have 60% of our children coming to school with weapons. We don’t need abortion clinics or drug rehab centers. Our students are educated not to lie, cheat or steal, but to love Jews, love Judaism, honor their parents and respect authority. If anything, the secular education system, which is producing a decadent society, should be copying our system, not trying to interfere.

Moreover, Gemara prepares a person for modern technology more than even math and science. When our students enter job training, they score higher than their secular counterparts, because their minds have been developed. A recent United States Department of Education study concluded that in order to deal with the computer-based society of the next decade, education should not emphasize facts, but critical and logical thinking. And this is what Gemara does to a mind.

The real reason why they want to change our educational system is not our purported poverty, but to secularize us. They are afraid that we will outnumber them in 50 years, and they are trying to “solve the problem” at its root. Stanley Fischer, a secular Jew who is Governor of the Bank of Israel, said that unless the situation changes, Charedim will constitute the majority in another several decades — and something must be done. Ephraim HaLevi, a former head of the Mossad, said that the Charedim are a greater threat to Israel than Iranian nuclear weapons, and Naftali Bennett, head of the Bayit Yehudi party, said something similar.

In Lapid’s words, “we have to break down the ghetto walls,” and this is “an historic opportunity to bring the Charedim into our worldview.” This is the real issue. And although Lapid and his cohorts deny it — depending upon the audience they are addressing — the question is whether we will be permitted to maintain our lifestyle.

This is why there is such demonization of religious Jews, especially since Lapid was elected. In the newspapers, you can see caricatures of religious Jews no different than those in the most anti-Semitic journals. Television hosts and nightclub comedians serve up a constant flow of ridicule. When a crime is committed by a Charedi Jew, the newspapers invariably report that it was a “Charedi crime.” Would the American press report a criminal as “black” in similar fashion?

One of the slogans that brought Lapid to power was “sharing the burden.” The claim is that the Charedim take billions from the government in welfare, and do not pay taxes, thus they must be forced to work and pay taxes. This is sheer demagoguery. Even those in Kollel have wives who work and pay taxes. Every item purchased in Israel carries a 17% and now 18% VAT except fruits and vegetables, and the Orthodox, with their large families, are the largest block of consumers. Half the cost of an apartment in Israel is taxes.

Why should the government take their tax money, and put it into services they don’t use? Why should they pay one billion dollars annually for television, plus for sports stadiums, university buildings, and even police and prisons that their population rarely needs, if ever?

The Charedim bring in more tourists than any other sector. There were over 250,000 people Lag B’Omer at Meron. El-Al would go bankrupt if not for the Charedim. Every year, 20,000 students come to Israel from the United States and Europe to study in traditional yeshivos and seminaries, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars a year into the Israeli economy.

We support our Kollelim; the government gives minuscule amounts. We put up new buildings with our money to which they contribute nothing. How dare they take our taxes, use the money for services of no use to us, and then claim that we are not “sharing the burden?”

Please be advised, Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Bennett, and Mr. Lapid, that we do not feel that we can survive as a nation with your proposed laws.

I will give myself as an example of what is going to happen. I moved to Israel with three small children 50 years ago, with tremendous difficulty. I wanted to study Torah and experience the Kedushah of Eretz Yisrael. I only moved there because I was assured that we could raise our children as religious Jews, without government interference and without them having to go into the Army. This might not be true any longer. If you pass a law saying that it is criminal not to enlist in the Army, then although I love Israel no less than I did 50 years ago, and have for 50 years built up my entire family structure in Israel, I will nevertheless do everything possible to pull my family out. The dedication of my future descendants to Torah is more vital to me. We will pack our bags, as Jews have done many times throughout our history, and escape from this danger. Spiritual danger is more devastating than physical danger. It is tragic that a Jewish state will force me to do this, but it is no less dangerous for me and my future because it is a Jewish state.

Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Bennett, and Mr. Lapid, don’t try to wreck our lives as Jews, and don’t tear apart this country. Because that is what you are doing with your misguided efforts to change our way of life.

Read more: http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2013/07/04/wake-up/#ixzz2YPPxzTAV
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

40 comments on “Rav Aharon Feldman on the Attack on Torah in Eretz Yisroel

  1. The critical questions are:

    Is it a mitzvah to serve in the army in Israel?
    If yes – is there an exemption for some people?
    If there are no exemptions: why do chareidi people not serve at least long enough to be able to participate in a milchemet mitzvah?

    There obviously is a mitzvah to serve in the Jewish army, since there are two “milchamot mitzvah” involved: one is to conquer and hold the Land of Israel, the other is to protect the Jewish people from enemies.

    There is no “ptur”, no exemption, mentioned in halacha for anyone.

    Is there a heter to leave Eretx Yisrael in order to avoid the army? Obviously not.

    So what’s the problem?

  2. This really makes me miss our great Rav Noach Weinberg, Z”L. He understood no less than Rav Feldman how essential and vital Torah and halacha is, but he included himself and all Jews in the NATION of Klal Yisroel because the NATION of Klal Yisroel is not just a “Zionist” thing or a “nationalist” thing. It is a Torah concept, and a central one at that.

    It is not the Torah way to separate yourself from other Jews, scoff at them and insist you need to be protected from them. It is not a secular person’s responsibility (nor is it even in his ability after generations of being raised secular) to protect an observant person’s lifestyle, but it is an observant person’s responsibility to influence his secular brother back to Torah.

    Rav Noach remembered why the Second Temnple was destroyed. He knew that we are all judged as a nation together, that achdut is our very tikkun in our generation and the only thing that will bring G-d’s protection and mercy… and therefore moshiach.

    Rav Noach did not set himself aside to protect his “lifestyle” or the lifestyle of his many, many children. Nor did he complain that his tax dollars paid for things other Jews used but he didn’t. He worked in a way that inspired thousands to come back from generations of secularism and become Torah observant. Can anyone comprehend how powerful and righteous that is? It is the very thing Rav Feldman speaks of- spiritual survival is just as important as physical survival. But Rav Noach understood HOW to accomplish this and it was not using an “us against them” mentality. Rav Noach accomplished it in an truly Torah-based , effective way.

    Rav Noach would have never spoken of leaving eretz Yisroel, G-d forbid, but rather how can we do our best to bring Torah, halacha and holy behavior (including achdut) into it.

    As the Rav taught me and countless others- those who know Torah are obligated to influence our brothers with love for them and fulfill the mitzva of rebuke and yishuv haeretz ( including protecting it!) without compromising Torah. He proved to us that we CAN do this…we can stay true to Torah and influence the secular to embrace what is the essence of our nation: Torah.

    How sad it is for our generation to have lost such a great Rav with such love in his heart for the Jewish people and the NATION of Israel.

    Who is here to continue this in our generation?

  3. Excerpt of R. Yaakov Horowitz’s article today(Confronting and Eradicating Communal Abuse, 7/25/13):

    “It is hard to imagine the “Sharing the Burden” initiative gaining the traction it did if Israeli charedi young men had been serving their country with distinction and working in the hi-tech division of the IDF over the past decade.

    We who live in the Diaspora cannot claim to understand the nuances and ramifications of the political climate currently facing our charedi brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel. Therefore it is not our place to criticize or second guess the decisions being made in response to the reversal of the exemption given to yeshiva students that has been in place for the 65 years of Israel’s existence…

    We are committed to allowing a wide range of opinions including opposing views. All we ask is that the discussions be conducted in a respectful tone with an eye to practical solutions to this most pressing matter.

    We hope that this initiative will help generate constructive discourse and ultimate solutions that will provide opportunity for all of our children to live productive lives b’ruchniyus u’vgashmiyus (spiritually and materially).”

    http://www.rabbihorowitz.com/PYes/ArticleDetails.cfm?Book_ID=1731&ThisGroup_ID=238&Type=Article&SID=2

    Jonathan Rosenblum wrote in Mishpacha of his personal experience with R. Shach’s psak(“Mashiach Did Not Arrive — Again,”July 19, 2013”) :

    “To describe service in the IDF as ipso facto an act of shmad is to give vent to hysteria. The gedolim always sharply criticized those who sought deferments from service for which they were not qualified for endangering those who were entitled by virtue of their full-time learning. And when I served as editor of the English Yated Ne’eman more than twenty years ago, Rav Shach made clear that any staff member not entitled to the “toraso umanaso” deferment had to register with the IDF.”

    http://www.jewishmediaresources.com/1619/mashiach-did-not-arrive-again

    R. Zev Leff clarified his writing regarding the Chazon Ish’s position in a letter to Hamodia:

    Clarification

    Wednesday, April 10, 2013 | ל’ ניסן תשע”ג

    “After receiving feedback from one person and rereading the article published in Hamodia (March 20, page A15), I realized that I inadvertently gave the wrong impression as to what the Chazon Ish said. The Chazon Ish did NOT direct those who are not learning full time to enlist in the army. Rather, he said that if one who is not learning full time takes advantage of the p’tur (exemption) from the army, it is as if he is a rodef of the yeshivah world in Eretz Yisrael, for he endangers the whole essence of the p’tur. What, in fact, such a person should actually do rather than falsely use the p’tur was not delineated in the source (see Pe’er Hador, vol. 4, p. 260, top).

    Rabbi Zev Leff

  4. A charedi man may want to ask himself this before he decides whether he is a conscientious objector:

    If a man climbed in the window of your home and attacked your wife and children, would you get up to defend them, even if you were in the middle of daf yomi?

    If he says he would begin davening for their safety and well being, or finish the page before calling police and waiting for them patiently, or would just call the police and stand there and whistle while they are attacked – yes, this man is a true CO, and someone who should be granted that status.

    Tuvia

    Also, to answer the question of whether hearing bad language makes you more course (or less spiritually elevated.)

    I used to work as a laborer with men who cursed and commented on women walking by. I vowed that would never be me.

  5. One of the main focuses of Tishah B”Av is on that Sinas Chinam was the cause of Bayis Sheni. A simple question-does the above transripted “talk” reduce or increase the same?

    In particular, one must express concern over the following excerpt:

    “The Hesder model is not truly separate, and the results are predictable; a large proportion of them are lost to Judaism. According to Rav Eliezer Melamed, Rosh Yeshiva of the Religious-Zionist Yeshiva Har Brachah, 20% come out completely secular. Those who return to Yeshiva are weakened in their commitment to Torah. When I moved to Israel, the Religous Zionist party had thirteen seats in the government, and today they have five. This is in no small part due to the secularization of their youth in the Army.

    Even were it true that it had the status of pikuach nefesh, which it does not, Charedim cannot serve in the Army. Spiritual pikuach nefesh is of no lesser importance than physical pikuach nefesh. We should have the status of conscientious objectors in any democratic society.

    So they say that instead, students should leave Yeshiva and stop learning Torah for “public service.” How absurd! Learning Torah ensures the survival of the Jewish people; it has done so for thousands of years, and, as we have seen before our eyes, it rejuvenated American Jewry after the Holocaust. Learning Torah should not be considered on a par with changing bedpans in a hospital?”

    One can easily state that the rhetoric on all sides of the issue has escalated well beyond the level of acceptable levels, and stipulate that while not every talmid should serve in the IDF, not everyone should be learning for life and that the OTD phenomenon knows no hashkafic boundaries, and has various meanings in different communities. One wonders whether the same meaning is ascribed to dropping observance entirely or merely leaving the Charedi world to enter the workplace.The phrase “OTD” is pregnant with meaning , depending on the community one is discussing. I would suggest that merely wearing blue shirts and going to university and serving the army is by no means the same as being an Ocel Nevelos vTarfos, a Mchallel Shabbos, etc.

    That being said, a few weeks ago, a friend showed me a sefer by R Yosef Rimon, a Posek and RM in Gush dedicated to the halachic issues faced by members of the IDF. It was a game changer for one reason-the Meshech Chachmah in Parshas Yisro comments that if a non kohen studies the halachos of bringing a Korban, it is considered as if he brought the Korban, because by stuying those Halachos, he takes on the persona of a Kohen.

    It is easy to say that one “feels” hakaras hatov for the men and women in the IDF who spend Shabbos, the Yamim Noraim and YT away from home. However, without having any real appreciation of the halachic issues that they encounter, I question whether anyone who chooses not to serve can really say that they have either Hakaras Hatov or a sense of being Noseh BOl Chavero.

    ( It should be noted that RSZA had a hot line for the halachic queries of Chayalim and that R Avigdor Nevenzal , a Talmid Muvhak of RSZA is depicted learning with Chayalim in Lebanon in HaTorah HaMisamachas.)

    The above excerpt of the above talk illustrated the lack of hakaras hatov for the IDF, the casual dismissal of hesder yeshivos and many other aspects of life in Israel WADR cannot be equated with any real sense of Hkaras Hatov or Noseh Bol Chavero, but rather as a friend related in a story while he was sitting shivah, a rejection of HaShem as the Great Shadchan who enabled Klal Yisrael to get back on its collective feet after almost being wiped out in the Shoah.

  6. I work from home so I don’t hear people using bad language. On the rare occasions that I do hear it, it makes me recoil a bit. If I was in an environment where people were always using foul language, that recoiling would diminish and the sensitivity to bad language would decrease. There’s no protection against being exposed repeatedly to negative spiritual stimuli.

  7. If yeshiva students’ spiritual outlook really is as fragile as portrayed, someone had better make sure they get more appropriate preparation in yeshiva. The rest of our people would benefit from more interaction with them.

  8. Amrilusaguy wrote,

    “In the US when there was a draft it captured everyone. The only way out was through a deferment, or to be a conscientious objector. Objectors were still taken overseas as medics and medical corpsmen.”

    During the Nixon administration, with the Vitenam War still in progress, a draft lottery was begun. If your number was high enough, no draft was likely. The effect was to reduce the number of students who felt threatened by the draft, which took much of the steam out of the radical antiwar movement.

    See these blasts from the past:
    http://tech.mit.edu/V89/PDF/N47.pdf
    http://tech.mit.edu/V91/PDF/N31.pdf

  9. This is a link to a story of R. Shlomo Zalman Aeurbach telling a Baal Teshuva that in principle, he has an *obligation* to go on a mission for the Mossad, although it would involve not living as a Jew(“And from Jerusalem, His Word: Stories and Insights of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Aeurbach zt’l, pgs 141-143).

    (I would imagine that R. Auerbach would be against drafting Yeshivah Bachurim. However, were there a theoretical issue of no non-Charedim serving, I think Charedi poskim would deal with the issue, just as R. Aeurbach did in the story I linked.)

    http://books.google.com/books?id=mxf2QDFNvcYC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q=141&f=false

  10. Shmuel

    1. Good question on who will serve in the Army when Moshiach comes. As you probably know the coming of Moshiach is a process, so it might depend on which part of the process we’re talking about. In addition the laws of a Mitzvah War are different. As I’ve said previously, I’m not well read on this, but if you find something interesting let me know.

    2. I am fully aware that there are Roshei Yeshiva and poskim who hold that it is a religious obligation. I’m not venturing an opinion here on that discussion. The question was asked according to those Roshei Yeshiva who hold that it is too spiritually damaging to serve in the current Army, how can others serve. To which I answered, perhaps if they asked those Roshei Yeshiva, they would be told not to serve.

  11. Mark F.: two things you wrote about above (in response to someone else) caught my eye:

    1. you wrote that the answer to the question of if everyone were learning full-time, who would serve in the army might be answered by saying that if everyone were learning full-time, the moshiach would come (and presumably an army wouldn’t be needed). Since the moshiach will be a military leader (among other things –see the Rambam in hilchot Melachim), according to the idea you suggested, who would serve in the moshiach’s army?

    2. you suggested that “[serving in the army might be prohibited for [those who do serve], if they were spiritually mindful enough to ask the question.” It’s worth pointing out in this connection that there are literally thousands of religious Jews serving in the army and who view it (in accord with their Rabbinic teachers and leaders) as a religious obligation to do so. There are Roshei Yeshiva and poskim, as well as many pious and G-d-fearing other people, who have served and continue to serve in the Israeli army. so please be careful about the suggestion that those who serve may be violating a prohibition and/or may lack spiritual sensitivity. And there are those who suggest that refusing to serve while others do indicates a lack of spiritual sensitivity.

    I am not taking a position one way or the other –there are different communities with their own rabbinic leaders and they have different views on this issue and I wouldn’t presume to enter the debate. But I think it’s important to recognize that this isn’t all one-sided.

  12. Amrilusaguy, I’m not totally following you. I live in the U.S. and there is currently no draft or national service required.

  13. Mark
    No they do not and the systems are different.

    In the US when there was a draft it captured everyone. The only way out was through a deferment, or to be a conscientious objector. Objectors were still taken overseas as medics and medical corpsmen.

    In Israel there is no conscientious objector status so there is no legal way out.
    In Israel there is a national service track for those who do not or can not do the army.

    In France on ones 18th birthday if ones parents are not from France the child can take that parents citizenship if they desire and they dont do the army. Many jews in France come to Israel to do their army this is allowed there – but everyone does some sort of service.

    I personally know people who tool their father’s citizenship in france, Algerian, and today they regret this decision.

    The service thing is important it binds peoples together and creates a nation

  14. Amrilusaguy, You said “Israel is a nation of laws and a nation of its citizens just like the US and everyone needs to take part in the requirements like the army or national service, in order to take part in the benefits.”

    But in the US or any other democratic country, surely not everybody contributes through the Army or through national service.

  15. FWIW, if the draft should wait until the chareidi bachur is now 25, the best way to accomplish that would be to negotiate. The current proposal is to delay to 21. Screaming at the opposition claiming things they don’t believe and don’t intend will backfire.

  16. “The Hesder model is not truly separate, and the results are predictable; a large proportion of them are lost to Judaism. According to Rav Eliezer Melamed, Rosh Yeshiva of the Religious-Zionist Yeshiva Har Brachah, 20% come out completely secular. Those who return to Yeshiva are weakened in their commitment to Torah.”

    I think that there is a misunderstanding here. This is what Rav Melamed wrote: “אולם גם כיום, יותר מעשרים אחוז מבוגרי החינוך הדתי מורידים את הכיפה במסגרת הצבא ומפסיקים לשמור שבת, משום שגם לאחר השיפור, עדיין קשה לשמור על רמה רוחנית נאותה בצבא. ”

    He is talking about “graduates of religious institutions”. Only a minority of these graduates serve in Hesder while many others do regular army service. I imagine the attrition rated of Hesder soldiers is lower.

  17. With all due respect the issues here larger much much larger.

    Israel today has the lowest number of those who are available to work,actually working – the last numbers I saw were 53%.
    So that means of all able bodied citizens 18-67 only 53% are working are producing toward the GDP.

    The two largest groups that are not working are haredim and arab women: both of these issues need to be addressed as without these two classes of people going out to work and contributing toward the economy of the country, Israel is doomed economically, doomed.

    Part of the issue is the various gentleman agreements that have complicated the issue of getting everyone to either serve in the army of perform national service.

    If haredim dont want to do the army – no problem, they can do national service.
    But, and this is the point as I see it living here in israel, the haredim dont want to contribute, not in the army and not as in national service – This is not acceptable.

    Israel is a nation of laws and a nation of its citizens just like the US and everyone needs to take part in the requirements like the army or national service, in order to take part in the benefits.

    Never in the history of the Jewish people anywhere has there been a culture of poverty as there is in haredi circles in israel, never.

    Once the haredim are part of the program, the next step obviously is to address those among the arabs who also choose not to contribute – but this being the land/homeland of the jewish people, the jews have to step up first and foremost.

  18. “People think, what is wrong if Orthodox Jews serve in the Army?”

    Doesn’t the written Torah command that every male of 20 and up go serve in the army unless he just married a wife (in which case he gets a year off)? So when you say “Torah” what Torah are you talking about?

  19. “In secular American education they call this problem “a mile wide and an inch deep”. And if you add just 2 subjects to existing ones, you will dilute the attention paid to the existing ones.”

    I think that’s part of it, but there is more, becuase I think they are objecting to even small amounts such as an hour a week, or fifteen mintues a day which could have some use over four years.

    R. Feldman said at Ner Yisroel a few weeks ago that secular studies takes away the atmosphere of kedushah, IIRC. For whatever reason, some educational systems are not set up to be able to deal with even small amounts of secular studies because it apparently leads to a different mindset(although Charedei girls high schools have secular studies even in EY).

    Adina Bar Shalom, daughter of R. Ovadiah Yosef, was quoted that:

    “It’s not possible to learn English or Math in a one-year pre-college preparatory course,” said Bar Shalom. “More than 50 percent of students who come to us do not succeed in English.” She continued saying that this failure caused many students to drop out of college altogether.”

    (On a personal note, I spent time tutoring a Chasidish friend who was about 20 years old in alegebra so he could get a GED. Assuming one needs to know algebra, I wonder if its better to learn it over a year when younger than in remedial courses; maybe it depends on apptitude)

  20. Shmuel, in specific situation that’s true, but when you’re adding full subjects to education curriculums from grade school and beyond, there is an impact.

    That doesn’t mean they should never be added, but don’t neglect the impact on the other subjects.

    As a point of reference, do you remember the difference between taking 12, 15, 18 (or 21) credits in college.

  21. Bob, I don’t think it’s super-specialization, it’s more often learning the standard Gemora sugyas which require the highest levels of thinking and learning.
    The small minority that do become Poskim do need raw material knowledge, but they’re very good learners and I don’t think a four year B.S. from a top Ivy league school would make much of a difference in there day to day endeavors.

    Parnassah is an issue, and as I look at the current trickle-up economy in the U.S. and Israel, and the number of very well educated unemployed people I now, I think the secular segments of both societies have a lot of work cut out for them if they’re looking for fuller employment as we continue the transition to the information age.

  22. My point is that it’s not always a zero sum game –that is, adding something else doesn’t necessarily subtract from someone’s Torah learning (though some of the time i think we would all agree that it does). Sometimes it might have no impact, and sometimes it might actually enhance it. The questions then become whether to add something in a given circumstance, how much, for whom, at what age, etc.

  23. How far can super-specialization go?

    Many things are more important than learning to tie your shoelaces. But if you don’t learn that, or things like it, at an appropriate stage, you will not move very smoothly through life. Somewhere, somehow, a Jew needs a basic practical knowledge of mundane topics. Many aspects of our world provide the essential raw material for high-level halachic discussion, debate and decision.

  24. Shmuel, you wrote
    In order to get to a conclusion on a contemporary issue, it helps to have tried to understand the issues at their roots and move forward to the specific contemporary issue, rather than vice versa.
    Can you clarify what you meant by that?

    My statement was based on the simple observation made by most educational institutions that the more subjects a person has to focus on, the less they will be able to learn well and go into depth on any one subject. In secular American education they call this problem “a mile wide and an inch deep”. And if you add just 2 subjects to existing ones, you will dilute the attention paid to the existing ones.

  25. I try to stay away from politics (other than voting), so what I am about to write has nothing to do with whether one is in favor of a certain curricular proposal by one government or another. But I interpreted the statement above “we shouldn’t fool ourselves and think that learning secular subjects does not effect the learning of Torah” to mean that learning secular subjects negatively affects learning Torah. If that is indeed what was meant, it isn’t so simple. In order to get to a conclusion on a contemporary issue, it helps to have tried to understand the issues at their roots and move forward to the specific contemporary issue, rather than vice versa.

  26. “Towns also have spiritual levels and those levels effect the people living their.”

    People are still people all over and not all fit the model. Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz wrote in 2009:

    “Weep for these kids who have been mislead to believe that anything less than full day learning is shameful.

    Weep for their parents who did not have the courage to buck community pressure and do what was right for their “average” sons years ago.

    And weep for our charedi tzibur that gave the green light for many years now to kanoim and extremists who have quashed all efforts in Bnei Brak and many other communities to create alternate programs and recreational activities for healthy, normal, mainstream children who so desperately are in need of them. ”

    I still agree that each place is unique. The best defense of the Charedi system in Israel I have seen is by Jonathan Rosenblum in 2004(Jewish Action):

    “No one educational model can possibly satisfy the needs of all the children in a large community, and the attempt to force one
    model upon all can only result in many being lost altogether to the religious world…The challenge the Chareidi community confronts today is how to preserve the ideal of Torah learning as its paramount value while adjusting to changing circumstances, both internally and externally. That will not be a simple task.”

    See link:

    http://www.ou.org/publications/ja/5764/5764summ/ISRAELSN.PDF

  27. Shades of Grey wrote:
    “However, people are still people, whether they live in Five Towns, Willamsburg or Israel.”

    As a tautology it is true, but it is not true in any other meaningful sense. As discussed by the Ramchal and others people are at different spiritual levels and they have different spiritual (and physical) needs. Towns also have spiritual levels and those levels effect the people living there. So Five Towns is different then Williamsburg is different then Bnei Brak is different from Haifa.

  28. “But we cannot judge Israel like the United States. The problems and challenges are different, and the ways that we must respond to those problems are different.”

    This needs to be fleshed out. RSRH did not want to force Torah im Derech Eretz in his day on Eretz Yisroel and similarly, R. Shimon Schwab wrote in “These and Those” :

    “We believe that the average Yeshiva students shall be trained to become what the average Yeshiva students have become for the last few thousand years: balei batim who are yereim u’shleimim and who are kovea ittim la’torah to the very best of their abilities.

    …Regarding the land of Israel, it has its own halakhic decisors. They are the great masters of the Holy Land, famous in Torah and in the fear of God. All Jews residing in the land of Israel must abide by their decision. No authorities outside the land of Israel may rule on their behalf. “

    However, people are still people, whether they live in Five Towns, Willamsburg or Israel.

    Rav Dessler wrote:

    “Don’t think that they didn’t realize from the beginning that this approach would ruin some who would not be able to deal with this extreme lifestyle and would consequently leave religious observance. But this is the price that they paid for the sake of producing in their schools great Torah scholars who were G-d fearing. Obviously they tried their best to deal with those who could not remain full time yeshiva students – but not in a way which would encourage others to follow in their path of leaving yeshiva.”

    In an interview in 2007 with Steve Savitsky on the OU website(“Wordliness and Walls”), Rabbi Dr. Aaron Hirsch Fried(who is Chassidish) praised Touro College’s Machon L’parnasha in New York as “hopeful and encouraging”, for giving Chasidim at ages 25-26, basic English and math skills so that they can go on to earn a degree.

    However, R. Fried notes(18 minutes in MP3) that

    “many of those young men are very angry now that when they were children or bachurim, when they were teenagers, they were not given the skills that they now have to learn when they already have a house of 2-3 kids to support”

  29. I would suggest that you look at the halachic writings related to the Israeli Army if you’re truly interested in the subject. I’m not well versed in them, but like all halachic issues, I’m sure it’s a complex subject.

    I changed “That’s the real reason Rav Shteinman backed away from full support.”
    “That’s one of the primary reasons Rav Shteinman backed away from full support.” according to those sources.

    >> It seems from what I quoted that Rabbi Horowitz disagrees with this.
    I’m not sure it’s fruitful to create disagreements, where none might exist, so I’ll just say that not everybody is always dealing with the same information.

    I think many people, myself included, feel there needs to be paths for people who will not learn all day. It’s obvious to many that those paths must be developed and not forced, which they were. The current secular coercion of Yesh Atid and the current government will probably slow down this development.

    I’m hesitant to use the term “fit to learn”, because I don’t want other people, especially non-spiritually oriented ones, to determine how much intense spiritual growth a given person needs. I think that’s a very dangerous area.

  30. Bob, well the Torah (meaning the Gemora) itself speaks about not be fully culpable in Shamayim for your actions until 20 years old. I’m not sure if that would indicate a full spiritual maturity, or just enough to be fully responsible for your actions.

    I imagine it was not always the case even in the last 150 years, that learning till 23-25 and then marrying was the norm in Yeshivish circles.

    If I had to look at causes for late maturation, the Haskala, the Holocaust and the lower spiritual state of the rest of the world come to mind. All of those had/have a dampening effect on the spiritual state of Klal Yisroel, necessitating more spiritual training for those who are seriously interested in making Hashem, Torah and Mitzvos a major part of their lives.

    Whether it’s a problem whatsoever, depends on your perspective. If you take a bitachon attitude that from Hashem’s perspective the Jewish people need what they have and have what they need, then it’s not a problem whatsoever, it’s just the current reality that we need to deal with. For Yair Lapid, it’s probably a big problem, but I’m less interested in his spiritual perspective.

  31. “It might be prohibited for them, if they were spiritually mindful enough to ask the question”

    I think this needs to be fleshed out. If something is assur, how can someone else do it and we rely on it and benefit from it ?

    Also, is it really assur for a country to have an army? Especially in Kiruv, we say that “Torah is supposed to be lived in this world”. Here is a situation, it would seem, where Torah can’t guide a country.

    In this week’s Jewish Press, Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran wrote:

    Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, head of Har Etzion hesder yeshiva, related that on a trip to America he was visiting with his father-in-law, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, and posed a series of questions he had received from students serving in the IDF. One student’s job was cleaning out and maintaining the tanks. Often his uniform got covered in oil and grime and he wanted to know if he needed to change before davening Minchah, something that would be terribly inconvenient and difficult.

    The Rav looked at Rav Lichtenstein and wondered out loud, “Why would he need to change? He is wearing bigdei kodesh” – holy garments.”

    “That’s the real reason Rav Shteinman backed away from full support.”

    It seems from what I quoted that Rabbi Horowitz disagrees with this. Possibly, all reasons are true in part, and RYH believes that there needs to be an ultimate solution, nor forced from the government, for many who are not fit to learn all day whether or not it’s Nachal Charedi.

  32. “…my personal observation of many young men in my neighborhood makes me strongly agree with what Rabbi Aharon Lopiansky recently stated in an article in Mishpacha, that young men do not reach a level of stable spiritual maturity until 5-7 years after high school, ages 23-25.”

    Mark, do you think this timetable was always the case? If not, what could have contributed to late maturation now? Do you view late maturation as a problem whatsoever?

  33. Shades of Gray
    (1) is a good theoretical question, and the Moshiach answer is probably the best approach for it
    (2) it might be prohibited for them, if they were spiritually mindful enough to ask the question
    (3) I never heard that, but if you can provide some actual numbers it would be interesting

    As far as Nachal Charedi, my Rav has relatives who are very close to that situation and as it turned out Nachal Charedi was more spiritually harmful than originally expected, although it is still a better spiritual environment then the regular Army. That’s one of the primary reasons Rav Shteinman backed away from full support according to those sources. Another reason is as Rav Feldman stated, the Army doesn’t want to handle more Charedi units.

  34. “Even were it true that it had the status of pikuach nefesh, which it does not, Charedim cannot serve in the Army. Spiritual pikuach nefesh is of no lesser importance than physical pikuach nefesh…”

    You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s Real Jewish Rye, and you don’t have to be Charedi to write, as did Gary Rosenblatt in the Jewish Week,

    “But a number of people I spoke with, including those highly critical of what they call the haredi drain on society, argue that forcing the issue through law would only exacerbate the problem, pushing the haredim to resist, perhaps even violently, and to see themselves as the victims of intolerance and hatred by their fellow Jews.”

    Despite the fact that as above, I think the government is moving too fast and forcing the issue is counter-productive, the above quote from R. Feldman presents classic questions.

    (1) If everyone would learn, who would serve in the army?

    (2) If it is forbidden for Charedim to serve halachically, how come non-Charedim are permitted to serve ?

    (3)There used to be, I think, more Chareidim in the army. Someone I was recently speaking to remembers in 1969 purchasing Tefilin in Israel from a sofer who was a Gerer Chasid(wearing his distinctive socks) who told him “you came just in time because– ich darf gein tzu milatair[I need to go to reserve duty].”

    A number of years ago, I heard an answer to the first question from a Rav, that if everyone would learn Moshicach would come! I am wondering if there are other answers to the above questions.

    Thought experiment:

    How people would emigrate to America today without being assimilated, if we would have to do it again, instead of the what happened in the 1850’s-1940’s. Although there wouldn’t be organized Orthodox lobbyist organizations, hopefully anti-Semitism would be less, and the frum world would be able to organize itself better. Orthodoxy would organize itself in large numbers to preserve Jewish life as best as possible. Having an army to run a country might be like emigrating to America and trying to make it work

    R. Yaakov Horowitz recently wrote:

    “Rav Shteinman Shlita fully supported[ Nachal Charedi] not to be for a few hundred at-risk boys, but rather as a mainstreaming process for the many thousands of young men who are not cut out for a full day of learning. The radical kanoim (extremists) in Eretz Yisroel unleashed a vile campaign of hate and intimidation against one of our gedolei hador for having the courage to support a solution that would have been a “win-win.”…This would have gone a long way to sooth the simmering anger of the general population about the army matter that just exploded a few months ago…How different things would be in Eretz Yisroel today if the sage advice of Rav Shteinman was followed a decade ago”

  35. David, I can hear a difference between a “risk of an enforced draft” (which wasn’t enforced for 40+ plus years, post 1967) and a definite draft.

    I think it’s reasonable for Rav Feldman to propose that a definite draft would keep people away from Israel. Especially people who feel that the army is significantly spiritually damaging for their family’s spiritual level.

  36. I can’t accept Rav Feldman’s premise that this is a reason to pick up our bags and leave Eretz Yisrael. Anyone who lives here certainly knows there is a mandatory draft, and our sons born here are subject to it, even if they move abroad. There was never a law deferring Yeshiva students (only an “arrangement”), until the Tal law in 2003, which was repealed by the Supreme Court. So where is there grounds for “doing everything possible to pull my family out”? Surely the risk of an enforced draft was always here, and “al manas kein” we made aliya and built our families and homes here. So we’ll deal with this situation as well.

  37. Micha,

    Thanks for trying to be respectful. I do want to state upfront for others who might comment, that disparagement of great Torah figures like Rav Aharon Feldman is not allowed on Beyond BT. Unfortunately there are many Frum sites where that is normative, but thankfully this is not one of them.

    In regards to your points, my personal observation of many young men in my neighborhood makes me strongly agree with what Rabbi Aharon Lopiansky recently stated in an article in Mishpacha, that young men do not reach a level of stable spiritual maturity until 5-7 years after high school, ages 23-25. As far as proof of that, I’m sure you’re aware that you can’t measure spirituality so it can’t be proven with measurements and surveys. So, I’ll go with the Mesillas Yesharim on this one and rely on people great in Torah who have navigated the garden maze, for this assessment.

    As far as dual curriculum, I’m a co-founder of InfoGrasp.Com which develops Web Based school management software. We’re in over 50 schools and I go to both the Torah U Mesorah (TUM) conventions, which service the more Yeshivish schools, and RAVSAK, which services the Modern Orthdox, Conservative and Reform schools. Whenever you have dual curriculum, which means more subjects, the quality of education in all subjects falls. This is true for the RAVSAK schools which are more focused on secular subjects and the TUM schools, which are more focused on Torah related subjects. The RAVSAK schools struggle with teaching Gemorah and the TUM schools provide a low level of secular education.

    The 20th century Torah leaders ruled that in America we should have dual curriculum since it made sense for the majority who will need both, but we shouldn’t fool ourselves and think that learning secular subjects does not effect the learning of Torah.

    As far as Mr Lapid, I am still amazed at how R’ Adlerstein and many other very smart Torah observant Jews, place so much trust in him despite the fact that his actions as an MK, speak to me, much louder than his seemingly conciliatory words.

  38. Similarly, Yair Lapid, isn’t his father. The son said, “No matter how hard we tried, Israeli-ness can’t exist without Judaism and Judaism can’t exist without Haredi-ism, so you win.” (tr. R Yitchak Adlerstein).

    A Keneset where the majority observe Shabbos, where there are more kippot than ever before, where a “secular” MK pushes and gets a gemara class in the Keneset, where Labor (!) asks Machon Zomet for a microphone that avoid violating Shabbos, is not one you can assume is working on the same motives as Ben Gurion and the generation of Aliyah Bet.

  39. The quote concludes, “Because that is what you are doing with your misguided efforts to change our way of life.”

    Let’s understand what we’re talking about:
    Two years, starting at age 21, in a special army program tailored for chareidi life. And imposing a choice on schools of 50 min a day more secular studies, for a total of 2 hr 12 min, or finding another 15% of their funding from the municipality (neighborhood taxes), donations or tuition.

    Actually, what Bennet and Lapid, as well as Rabbis Piron and Lipman, are talking about is bringing Israeli Chareidim to a lifestyle closer to those of R’ Feldman’s talmidim. In fact, it will still be less secular education than is the norm in Lakewood or Monsey.

    And this claim that going to the army would risk the religiosity of chareidi boys would require (1) bringing evidence that fewer chareidi boys leave Torah observance than their religious Zionist counterparts, and more importantly (2) ignoring the fact that they’re offering to create chareidi-appropriate programs. Including moving the draft age up to 21, when a boy is more mature, less easily swayed, and more established in his learning.

    There is a cry going up that simply doesn’t seem to correspond to what the chareidim are actually confronting.

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