Thursday, May 23, 2013

a protest without a plan

Some people are good with just rolling with the punches; I prefer to at least have some idea of a plan before running with an idea.  You can read this post as a criticism if you like, but I prefer to say I simply don’t understand what the present chareidi leadership in Israel is thinking.  Let us imagine for a moment that the chilonim were all gone and out of the equation – that Israel was a theocracy, with the chareidi leadership in full control.  Could such a state succeed?  How would it defend itself when the entire population claims exemption from army duty?  How would the economy function when the vast majority of the population requires government assistance to survive?  How would there be doctors, accountants, engineers, etc. if all secular studies are off-limits?  In short, what’s the plan? 

Simply protesting any change to the status quo is not an answer.  The status quo is untenable and unsustainable.  If we are being called upon to listen to da'as Torah, then da'as Torah must articulate a vision of how a society can be built and function given the constraints chareidi leaders are imposing. 

R’ Moshe Shternbruch spoke recently (link) at a protest and posed the following question: “The authorities today are not threatening to draft the Arabs or scheming against them. What is the difference between the chareidim and the Arabs? Legally speaking, their status is identical: both groups are citizens who are not drafted.”  B’mechilas kvodo, the Rosh Yeshiva may be correct as far as the legal argument goes, but it is incredible to me that he does not see the moral distinction.  Our obligations to the State do not stem from legal status, but rather stem from the chiyuvim of yishuv ha’aretz, of ahavas yisrael and living in harmony with our brethren (secular and religious), of fighting milchemes mitzvah.  How can one dream of comparing the loyalty and love a Jew should feel toward the State to that which an Arab feels? 

I cringe when I see the word “shmad” applied to the Jewish state.  That word should have no place in our internal debates.  Disagree with everything the government does, but I don't see how you can compare asking for a few years of service in Tzahal with the forced conscriptions into Czarist armies that our people suffered a hundred years ago.  Yet, R’ Shternbruch goes even a step further and quotes the Brisker Rav as saying (and I even hate to write this!), “…the Zionists were worse than the SS.”  Yes, I have taken the words out of context, but b’mechilas kvodam, and afar anochi tachas raglam, but I simply cannot fathom any context in which those words can be justified. 
The whole situation is a sad mess.


  1. It is a sad thing that you present only a moral distinction, and not the practical distinction that Arabs could not be trusted with guns and the security of Artzeinu HaKedosha.

    Because, perhaps, you're not sure that it is a distinction?

  2. I did not include that point because I thought the practical nafka mina is a totza'ah of the fact that they do not feel a moral obligation to support their adopted country; it's not a din in its own right. Maybe I should have included it anyway.

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  4. I think we can agree that Rabbi Meiselman is not a wild eyed extremist.
    Please see the interview with Rabbi Meiselman in the Yated, (available here: )

    RMM Ben Gurion mentioned that the army was the social leveler, enabling all the diverse elements of Israeli society to be united and molded in a new Israeli mentality and nationality.

    YATED In what way was the army to impact the culture and atmosphere of the country?

    RMM The army served the purpose of allowing Ben Gurion and the Zionists to impose their anti-Torah lifestyle, philosophy and ideology on the thousands who would serve in Tzahal. One must understand that being in the army means that soldiers must totally subjugate themselves to the rules and orders of their superiors. This enables those running the army to create a new social identity.

    This was the reason that the gedolim leading the chareidi community insisted very strongly that bnei hayeshivos not go to the Israeli army. They rejected the new social identity that the Zionists were trying to impose on the residents of the country.

    YATED Was this the reason that the gedolim felt that joining the army at the time was “yeihoreig ve’al yaavor”?

    RMM Indeed. We can now understand the famous story of the Brisker Rov zt”l refusing to sign a statement that sheirut leumi was yeihoreig ve’al yaavor. The Brisker Rov said that if he would sign it, it would sound like only army/sheirut leumi for women was yeihoreig ve’al yaavor, but not army service for men. In fact, the Brisker Rov felt that even for men to go to the Israeli army was yeihoreig ve’al yaavor. We can now appreciate why this is so, as the Israeli army was meant to create a new social identity to replace any commitment to Torah life, and it would therefore be yeihoreig ve’al yaavor.

  5. Don't the Hesder yeshivos and/or Nachal Chareidi demonstrate that army service does not and need not supplant committment to Torah. The entire argument is based on a false premis.

  6. I don't know. It seems to me that one could survive army duty untainted. The Steipler did, Rav Kulefsky did, plenty of people did. I've always thought that I would be proud if one of my kids was in the Israeli army, and I am as upset as you about the whole thing. But, as you say, afar ani tachas kapos raglam. If they are so harshly opposed, I don't know what to say. What do the Gerrers do? Don't they go to the army?

  7. >>>If they are so harshly opposed, I don't know what to say.

    I think there are many people who will suffer the congnitive dissonance of wanting to believe and trust 'da'as Torah' of gedolim but find that reality does not match their pronouncements. Affiliating with the dati leumi or chardal is one solution. Beyond that, I don't know what else to say. My cynical attitude only grows worse by the day.

  8. I've come to believe that the plague of dementia that Rachmana Litzlan has stricken certain of our gedolim in the past results in part from just what you mentioned- the stress and anxiety of cognitive dissonance, of emunas chachamim while blowing the chance to make Eretz Yisrael ours, or telling people to stay in Europe and all will be fine, of saying it's counterproductive to make public protests on behalf of Soviet Jewry, when it turned out that Avi Weiss single-handedly made all the difference in the world, that we are the Am HaNivchar, promised all good things in return for our emuna and mitzvos and limud hatorah, and then seeing more than ninety six percent of Lithuanian Jewry wiped out in the cruelest and most horrible way by people who then went on to live nice lives and die in bed surrounded by their families. Things like that. When you have to train yourself to believe the unbelievable, and accept the unacceptable, it's going to leave scars on some, and encourage others to determinedly create a belief system out of things that leave some of us wondering if these people inhabit the same universe as we do. Well, writing things like that means that it's time for a little drink. As Ashleigh Brilliant said, "I have abandoned my search for Truth, and am now looking for a good Fantasy."