An Exchange

Earlier this week, I was contacted by an old friend who now lives in Israel, part of the Chareidi world. He sent me his thoughts, and I responded, and the exchange is reproduced below, with minor editing. I have deleted the friend’s name.   -RSP

6 Adar II 5774, March 8, 2014

Dear Steven,

Ahead of the mass gathering of Torah true Jewry scheduled to take place tomorrow in Manhattan, I’m reaching out to you, our brothers in America, to share with you the sad truth: here, in the State of Israel, Torah Jewry is subject to religious persecution.

To classify Torah students as “criminals,” subject to imprisonment, is only the latest and most absurd of anti-chareidi laws enacted recently by the government. In addition, they have  drastically cut education and welfare budgets, aiming to choke our yeshivos and schools, and even our individual religious freedoms, so prized by Americans and citizens of democracies worldwide.

Under the deceptive mantra of ‘sharing the burden’ the government is responsible for a wave of unprecedented incitement against chareidim, thereby splitting the nation. It is no secret that the objective of conscripting Torah scholars is a thinly disguised attempt at social engineering.

Is it conceivable that a Jewish government in Israel is trying to prevent its citizens from living Torah-true lives in the tradition that their ancestors for generations were moser nefesh for?

As you prepare to gather to offer heartfelt tefillos tomorrow, please remember that the train of persecution of lomdei Torah has already left the station and that there is no doubt that it is more difficult to stop a train that is already moving than to prevent it from leaving. But we must not despair and have to try to raise the alert, and to make all possible efforts to change things, before the train picks up speed. Because the route this train is heading towards leads directly to the abyss.

We know that the heart of Torah-true American Jewry beats together with its brethren in Eretz Yisrael, and senses that the danger to Torah observance in the Holy Land is a danger to the entire Jewish world. We believe that you recognize that learning and living Torah in Eretz Yisrael in holiness and purity is the basis for the existence of Torah true Yiddishkeit in Eretz Yisrael and in the Diaspora.

And therefore, grasp onto the craft of our fathers, and plead to Hashem that He protect and send salvation to all those who seek His yeshuos, so that shomrei Torah and lomdei Torah throughout will be able to continue to draw upon the eitz chaim, the tree of life, of the Torah world in Eretz Yisroel, that sustains us all.

(Name deleted)
Your brother in Eretz Yisrael


Dear ———:

It is great to hear from you and I hope you and the family are well, but I must part company with you on this issue, and I will not be participating in the rally today. In fact, I denounced it yesterday – even noted (based on a Midrash at the beginning of Vayikra) that there is such a concept of a “Talmid chacham she-ein bo da’at.”   Here is why:

Chareidim make a mistake in thinking that only the Lapid-led diehard seculars have a growing contempt for them. The dati-leumi community is also increasingly hostile, because they sense – to me, accurately – that the Chareidi community is causing hatred for Torah. It is impossible to explain to – take, for one example – my nephew, who learned in Hesder and completed his army service, why his Talmud Torah is somehow inferior to that of Chareidim. It is not. Perhaps his Talmud Torah is the same, but the Charedi world’s “Nosei b’ol im chaveiro” is completely absent. That deficiency in Ahavat Yisrael is glaring, noticed and the reason why the society at large no longer tolerates it.

It is unconscionable that there exists in the Chareidi world this idea that work and army service are beneath them, and that the rest of society which they hold in contempt must work and pay higher taxes in order to support them in order that they should sit and learn. I too would love to sit and learn, and have someone support me, but that is not the system that Hashem set up. Odd, indeed, that the Rambam’s clear statement (Hilchot Talmud Torah 3:10-11) is ignored, if it is even taught. But when he speaks of “kavah me’or hadat,” that is exactly what has happened, and solely because the Chareidi world has not fully embraced the Torah. That construct of the Chareidi world as practiced today is unprecedented in Jewish history.
The Chareidi lifestyle as currently constituted is unsustainable. Everyone knows it, even their gedolim know it – but many are afraid to speak the truth for fear of physical attacks or peer reproach. They are literally trapped in a different era, using the language of Czarist Russia, Antiochus and Purim to describe a government that is the biggest financial supporter of Torah in the world. That is not leadership. I fully endorse the notion of a Yissachar-Zevulun relationship for as long as the parties agree, but no Yissachar has the right to force someone else – the whole society? – to be a Zevulun. That is simply not part of the Torah system.

What is wrong with all Jews participating in national defense? Or, if for whatever reason Chareidim feel they cannot, what is wrong with even Chareidim doing national service – helping out in nursing homes, teaching Torah in deprived communities, even doing chesed work for a year or two? That is known as giving back to society. One can’t only take; one must give as well. Certainly, as Rav Dessler emphasized repeatedly, giving – not taking – is the essence of the righteous person. When I learned in Israel, I thought it quite natural to participate in the national defense. I didn’t necessarily enjoy – at the time – the loss of sleep because of overnight patrols, but I am happy I did it, and only benefited from it, even in terms of Talmud Torah. How can Zaka take time off from learning to pick up the pieces, r”l, after a terrorist attack? Why can’t the same people work to thwart the terrorist attack in the first place?
Indeed, the army doesn’t really need Chareidi service as much as the Chareidim – for halachic and moral reasons – need it for themselves. But army service is mainly a portal into the work force, and that is key. The rate of employment in the Israeli Chareidi community is simply too low. The work force participation rate of adult males in Bnei Brak, Betar Illit, Kiryat Sefer, etc., is scandalous. Perhaps that is the true “war on Torah,” because the impression given that one cannot be a Torah Jew and a Talmid Chacham – and work and support one’s family – is an outrageous canard. All the Tannaim and Amoraim worked for a living. The greatest of our people – Avraham, Moshe, Yehoshua, David, etc. – all went to war when necessary. The Torah exempts four classes of people from battle: the scholar is not one of the exemptions, for Jewish wars especially require the participation of Talmidei Chachamim.

I am inclined to agree with Rav Rakeffet of Yerushalayim: “someone who thinks that he will not be a Gaon if he serves for a short time in the military will not be a Gaon in any event.” But it is unconscionable to expect the rest of society to support a lifestyle that is alien to them, and frankly, alien to Torah. Why would a “secular” Jew be attracted to a “Torah” lifestyle that purports to demand estrangement from the general society, a cloistered abode, a rejection of general knowledge, an inability to function in the presence of women, a disdain for gainful employment and self-support, etc.? It doesn’t seem very attractive, except for one who wants to escape from the world.

I don’t believe that Chareidim should be imprisoned for refusal to serve, nor that it will ever happen.  But, I note half in jest, what if it did? One can learn Torah full-time anywhere, even in prison. In fact, prison is ideal. Rav Meir Kahane hy”d wrote a 500-page sefer while he was in prison.  Every Israeli prison has a fully-stocked Bet Midrash, there are regular minyanim, Magidei Shiurim come every day, the food is mehadrin, there are no women present, no distractions at all. There are regular furloughs for Yamim Tovim. The government can support them anywhere. It’s just a change in venue. I don’t underestimate the hardships of prison life, but the Israeli jail is not the Gulag to which Jews were sent for learning Torah.

That they don’t proudly embrace the consequences of defiance means there is another factor at work: as you write, there are people who perceive the actions of the government as “social engineering” designed to “prevent Chareidim from living Torah-true lives.” I don’t believe that, and the extent to which the Charedi world has alienated natural supporters and lovers of Torah should be worrisome to them. But anyone who does believe that should not insist that the government subsidize that lifestyle. I personally oppose incarceration or criminal penalties, but I also would grant no government benefits at all to people who refuse to perform any type of national service. The Chareidi educational system is also in disarray; I do not see why the government should support any school system that does not educate its students in a way that will enable them to function in society. Is that really a “Torah-true” life? I think not.

One last point, which goes to the heart of this: I have never heard of a Chareidi shul where the tefila for Tzahal is recited. Forget the tefila for the medina – but why wouldn’t they say the tefila for Tzahal? I have asked this question many times to Chareidi acquaintances, and mostly been met with stunned silence and occasionally with a muffled “the Rebbe…the Rosh Yeshiva… has never told us to say it.” It is simply inexplicable, a lack of derech eretzhakarat hatov, and common sense.

What a Kiddush Hashem it would be if the Charedi leadership announced today that, it still rejects conscription, but henceforth it will daven for Tzahal every week! That would go a long way to easing tensions, perhaps not with Yair Lapid and his cohorts but with the Dati-Leumi Torah community that you are rapidly losing.

I love all Torah Jews and I hate all distortions of Torah. The Chareidi Torah world has so much to offer, and I refuse to accept this prevailing notion that they need to treated like handicapped children with special needs, that they are unable to live and interact with normal people. I reject that. I will treat them like precious Jews but like adults: those who are poreish min hatzibur should not be shocked or disheartened when the tzibur is in turn poreish from them.  The Chareidi world, on some level, perceives itself as a self-contained community that can insulate itself from the greater society which it holds (at least in some aspects, understandably) in contempt. But then don’t be surprised when that same society – which feels the contempt – then decides it no longer wishes to subsidize or indulge that community.

With friendship, all blessings and wishes for nachat v’chul tuv,

Steven Pruzansky

Your Brother in America

—————————————————————————————————-Those who wish to hear a powerful, passionate, and heartfelt sicha on this matter, please listen to Rav David Milston, RoshYeshiva of Midreshet Harova in the Old City, and his reaction to the rally in Israel.  Listen at:


96 responses to “An Exchange

  1. Very interesting. Did you get a response?

  2. Once more, the Rabbi nails it on a current hot topic! In truth, the law has been defanged. Dati-Leumi conscripts will count towards the hareidi quota, meaning that there will be no draft at all of hareidim. People who know this on both sides (including Lapid and the Hareidi MKs) are nevertheless maintaining that there will be a hareidi draft, because it supports their political agendas. But Rabbi Pruzansky is spot-on as usual. This exchange is reference material for anyone curious about the issue. Even my shul gabbai, who is hareidi, says a tefillah for the “Jewish army” every Shabbat, if not naming the IDF or medina specifically.

  3. Rabbi Pruzansky, let me first say I enjoy your blog very much and agree with it the vast majority of the time.

    In this article, however, I take issue with a number of points:

    1) You say that Hesder Talmud Torah is not inferior to that of Haredim. To that I say if you refer to the average Hesder student’s Talmud Torah compared to the average Yeshivot Gedolot’s Talmud Torah, even Yeshivot Hesder’s Rashei Yeshiva agree that it’s inferior! There is no comparison of one who learns full time to one who learns part time. The analogy is that of a kettle where you keep turning on the water and it gets to 211 degrees Fahrenheit and turn it off, and repeat these steps over and over. The water will get very hot, but will never boil. Boiling water is a changed entity. This is not to disparage Hesder, who are doing 2 Mitzvot very well. However, their Torah learning is not ideal.

    2) You say that the Haredi world’s Ahavat Yisrael and Nosei Be’ol Im Haveiro is absent. Nothing is further from the truth. Do you not agree that Talmud Torah is an Ol? The reason the community at large thinks it’s lacking is because they don’t understand the truth about Torah learning. They think מאי אהני לן רבנן. And regarding Ahavat Yisrael, with a few exceptions, most Haredim are exemplary at it. If you don’t see it, perhaps you’re not looking hard enough.

    3) You mention the Rambam in Hilchot Talmud Torah and you say that Yissachar cannot force a Zevulun role on Zevulun. That is correct. But you’re looking at the wrong tribe and the wrong Rambam to quote. The Rambam at the end of Shemitta Veyovel says that Shevet Levi is exempt from war and Parnassa, and he further says that anyone who wants to be like Shevet Levi may do so. How do we reconcile the 2 Rambams? Obviously, the Rambam at the end of Shemitta Veyovel is an exception to the Rambam in Talmud Torah. You are correct that it cannot be forced upon the community. However, the community should want it enough to support it. There are countless Ma’amarei Hazal that praise supporting Torah study.

    4) You ask what is wrong with Haredim participating in national defense or doing national service. The answer is nothing, assuming they are not learning Torah. If they are learning Torah, they should be exempt, as stated above. Many people like you want to define the parameters as “Haredi vs. Non-Haredi” when the real parameters should be “Torah-learners vs. Non-Torah-Learners”. This is why your Zaka argument falls flat as well.

    5) You say that Haredim show “a disdain for gainful employment and self-support”. That is also incorrect. Most Israeli Haredim who are not learning Torah want to work – they’re just finding that they are being rejected from employment because they never served in the army. It’s a problem caused by the government themselves – not the Haredim.

    6) Finally, you say that you never heard of a Haredi shul that says the Tefilla for Tzahal, let alone for the Medina. I will now enlighten you. I go to a shul with a Haredi rabbi (where the Kiddushim are separate seating) and they say both the Tefilla for Tzahal and for the Medina. And I’m proud that they do. Not all Haredim are black and white (excuse the pun). There is a lot of grey area, which you seem to be unaware of.

    That said, some of your points are very valid. And I always enjoy reading your posts, whether I agree with them or not.

    Kol Tuv.

    • Thank you for writing so thoughtfully.
      Briefly: time does not equate to quality.
      Talmud Torah is not an Ol. It is a joy. But it is also done for the self, not for the other or the rest of society. There is no moral justification for Hesder students (for example) having to serve on Seder night while Chareidim are home with their families.
      The Rambam is not referring in Shmita v’yovel to a milchemet Mitzva (Ezrat Yisrael Miyas tzar). This is a milchemet Mitzva.
      If, indeed, Chareidim want to work, then it undermines your argument about their desire to learn Torah full-time. Those who wish to work should do some community service before – military or otherwise. Ha’acheichem tavo’u lamilchama v’atem teishvu po? Or should the Bnai Gad, Reuven and half of Menashe just said they wanted to learn?
      It is inaccurate to claim that anyone is learning Torah “full-time.” I’ve learned in Chareidi yeshivot. “Full time” is a relative concept.
      I hope your shul sets the example for shuls, especially in Israel.
      Kol tuv!

      • 1) Time does not equate to quality, but contributes to it, and gives quality more of chance to succeed.

        2) Talmud Torah is both an Ol and a joy. I disagree when you say it is not done for the rest of society. Most Torah-learners know that it is their Torah learning that sustains the world.

        3) Re: Hesder students serving vs. Charedim being home with their families: Again, the split should not be Hesder vs. Haredim. It is Torah-learners vs. non-Torah-learners. And secondly, you are only referring to combat soldiers. Why do those who write for Bamahane Magazine (like Yair Lapid did) get to be home with their families on Seder night? Why do those who work in one of the other parts of military service get to be home with their families Seder night? Is that fair? Obviously, everyone has their job to do. Torah learners are doing their job, and if I dare say, more than others.

        4) Re: Milchemet Mitzva, see R’ Yair Hoffman’s articles on Cross Currents why this may not be so.

        5) Re: “If, indeed, Chareidim want to work, then it undermines your argument about their desire to learn Torah full-time.” I never said all Haredim have a desire to learn full-time. Actually, those who don’t want to or don’t have the ability to should go serve the country in some other fashion.

        6) Re: Bnei Reuven, Gad, Menashe: again, you are picking the wrong tribe. Did Moshe Rabbeinu ever force Bnei Levi to go to war (barring by the Egel which was a totally different thing)? These are the Bnei Levi of the generation.

        7) I agree “Full-time” is a relative concept. And those who are in Yeshiva to fool around should be kicked out and sent to the army. But those who are Matmidim – whether they are Illuyim or not – I believe should remain learning.

        Shabbat Shalom and Happy Purim.

      • Thank you again.
        Talmud Torah is not primarily a sacrifice of one’s time and energy for the good of another but for one’s own personal benefit in fulfillment of the essential Mitzva of Jewish life. I can have in mind that my netilat lulav should benefit the Klal, but I still need my own (obviously) and it is still a personal obligation incumbent on me.
        I don’t believe you want to fully embrace the Shevet Levi analogy. Live off maaser rishon? I am a Levi, and I prefer not to live off maaser rishon! From the Rambam’s language, it doesn’t seem that those hardy souls have any claim to societal support -just “Davar hamaspik lo.” And “kall ish v’ish” does not imply a mass movement. And the same Rambam, as noted, would classify the wars for kibush ha’aretz as milchamot Mitzva, not to mention “Ezrat Yisrael miyad tzar,” saving Israel from their enemies, which seems too obvious to require much elaboration.
        As you say, they believe that their Talmud Torah protects society. I believe it as well. I’m just unconvinced that the enemy believes it, and I know the Nazis did not believe it. Talmud Torah cannot be the only Mitzva in which we get to ignore the derech ha’olam. No one will contend today that because they learn Torah, therefore they need not eat or drink, need not see a doctor for their physical maladies, need not support their wives or children, etc. Those who learn still do mitzvot as well – so why not mitzvot like yishuv Eretz Yisrael, pikuach nefesh, kiddush Hashem – all connected to military service?
        It is interesting that, almost ignored in all the protests, are the substantial exemptions offered for matmidim – 1800 per year. I have heard from Rabbanim who oppose any type of exemption – that everyone should serve society somehow for sometime, and that no one’s Talmud Torah is harmed by it. Be that as it may, I have not heard even one word of gratitude for the exemptions of almost sixty years, plus the continued exemptions under the law for such a substantial number. That is a failure of midot.
        Additionally, for all the talk in recent months, I have not heard a single credible plan from any Charedi spokesmen or Rosh Yeshiva publicly expressed or implemented that would insist on military service for Charedim who do not belong in Yeshiva. Sure, statements are made and platitudes expressed, but there has not been one practical plan (bechinot?) announced that would single out those cannot learn in Yeshuva and should be in the army. Was such expressed at the rally, something like “rabotai, all of you who are here are not illuyim. Those who are not, and are just sitting in yeshiva to avoid military service, are doing a disservice to Talmud Torah generally, violating several isurei Torah, and engendering hatred from the rest of society. Service in Tzahal is a value for those who are not learning”? If something along those lines was said, please inform, and it will somehow compensate for the voices (the infamous video now removed from You Tube) which compared IDF service – i.e., saving Jewish lives and preserving the land of Israel – to “devarim betailim.”
        Finally, for sure, shivyon be’netel is a slogan, not a reality. There is no comparison between the service of a combat soldier and an army reporter, except in this regard: they are both being taken away from what they would rather be doing in order to serve society in some capacity. No one can contend that full-time Torah students are being taken away from what they would rather be doing in order to serve others.
        Thank you again!

    • Hi, Yaak:
      I have to take issue with several of your points:
      1. In terms of the supposed inferiority of one form of Talmud Torah over another, you cannot make generalizations in either direction. I have seen plenty of haredi yeshiva bachurim whose elementary grasp of Torah principles was so lacking it was a wonder they were even in the yeshiva, and I have seen bachurim come into Hesder barely wearing a kippa and leave with a firm grasp of the Rambam, Masechet Sanhedrin, and various works of halachic philosophy that would make students of Mussar weep with joy.
      2. Regarding the Haredi community being “exemplary” at Ahavat Yisrael, to be sure there are members of the community who are. But there are also huge swaths of the community who show nothing but contempt for anyone who is not like them. Take basically the entirety of Ramat Beit Shemesh B as an example. I am aware of one woman – haredi to the hilt – who lived in RBS-B for years, with a very sick husband and four small children, who depended on Tzedaka just to put a measly amount of food on the table. For many years, I helped provide some of that tzedaka, visiting her home at least once a month to bring her a check. I am also aware of a DL woman who did the same. Until one day, we went to visit and found her home deserted. A brief investigation revealed that neighbors had threatened her that if “the man with the grey car and the knitted kippa” (me) or “the prutzah with the rag on her head” the DL woman whose husband comes from a long line of Rabbanim appear again they will burn her house down. The woman packed her sick husband and four children under aged 10 into a borrowed car driven by a friend, and fled for Tzfat – at 2:30 in the morning.
      To be sure, this is not an entire community. But similar (if less drastic) things happen in RBS-B all the time. Vandalism, personal attacks, spitting, name-calling, verbal abuse, all are okay if the target is someone “acher”.
      3. People in Israel are not “rejected from employment because they never served in the army”. They are rejected from employment because they do not have the requisite skills to contribute in the workplace – because they never learned those skills in school. I am 42 years old. I came on Aliyah at the age of 25, and when I reported to the army for my initial physical examinations, I was given a profile that was too low for me to serve. I have been gainfully employed ever since, including for the past 2 years in the public service sector, and have NEVER been asked why I didn’t serve. In most cases, I was never even asked IF I served. Employers simply don’t care. They are interested only in whether I have the skills necessary to properly do my job.
      4. In terms of doing national service only if someone is not learning, that is also a complete misappropriation of the Torah’s philosophy. Are you aware that according to Rav Avrohom Leib Scheinbaum, citing Rav Yechezkel Abramsky ztl, (not exactly DL Rabbanim) the first mitzva of the Torah is “La’asot” mentioned at the end of Maaseh Breishis. Hashem created the world and mandated us to “DO” things to improve this world with the creations that He has made.

      • Hi, Yehuda. Thank you for replying.

        Re: your #1, if you noticed, I was careful to say the “average” of each group. I wasn’t saying a Hesder student cannot exceed a Yeshiva Gedola student. That would be obviously false.

        Re: your #2, your “huge swaths” that are not exemplary is untrue and misleading, despite the disheartening story you mentioned. You cannot overgeneralize like that without being over the issur of Motzi Shem Ra. I have stories about all segments of Orthodox society that would want to make you want to pull your hair out if you heard them. Baruch Hashem, they are all small, but loud, minorities. The vast majority of Jews have great Ahavat Yisrael.

        Re: your #3, I say that there is much to what you’re saying, but in actuality, both are causes for the unemployment. There are many documented cases where QUALIFIED Haredim could not get jobs because they did not serve.

        Re: your #4, I respectfully disagree. It matters not what you call “La’asot”. La’asot means to do Mitzvot. Must those Mitzvot mean army service and working for a living? I don’t think so and neither should you.

      • I think that all Chareidim who want to sit and learn should do so, tavo aleihem bracha. The funding to feed all those families whose husbands are sitting and learning should come from private sources. Why do the rest of the citizens of Israel have to feed those families (via the taxes they pay)? It is an incredibly unfair burden to place on the rest of society. Not a single respondent so far has addressed why the Hareidim should expect the Israeli taxpayer should pay for their Torah studies.

      • Elisabeth,

        The reason the Israeli taxpayer should pay for their studies is because it upholds the world and protects Israel. Why do those who send kids to private schools in America pay taxes that support public schools? The reason is because it’s good for society. This too is good for society – and I would say even essential for society, much more so than funding public school education, where lots of money is wasted. When we support Torah education and Torah learning, our benefit is Heavenly and therefore without bounds – and most certainly not wasted. In addition, the learning of others helps protect everyone. If you don’t see the benefit, then you are not spiritually in tune. Ask your rabbi to explain it to you.

      • Yaak-
        The decision to live a Kollel lifestyle, is a personal one, one that should be supported by one’s family and other like minded people, therefore it should be funded by all those people who are willing to pay for that lifestyle. You personally have decided that this is a higher goal that the average Israeli should pay for via their taxes. If that’s truly what Hareidim believe, then they should be shouting Tfila Lishlom Hamedinah from the rafters of their shuls on a daily basis. In addition, they should be thanking the entire Israeli public, including the secular people, for funding their lifestyles on a daily basis as well. The tone of the Hareidi protests are quite the opposite. The Hareidim don’t seem to understand the saying, don’t bite the hand that feed you.’
        I will not respond to your personal attacks on me, and if you don’t understand, please consult your rabbi.

      • Elisabeth,

        It is a higher goal that everyone should fund. And you’re absolutely right. There is not enough thanking of the government for their financial support for Torah study. But in return, there is not enough thanking of the Torah learners BY the rest of society.

        You say that prayers for the government should be recited and that Torah learners should be thanking the Israeli public. I wholeheartedly agree. And it’s a two-way street. The entire Israeli public should be thanking Torah learners. See these two posts of mine, which sum up my position on the matter:

        And if you think I was personally attacking you, I sincerely apologize. That was not what I tried to do even if comes off that way. I’m trying to prove a point that so many commenters here are sorely missing.

    • Please provide evidence for the following claim:

      “To that I say if you refer to the average Hesder student’s Talmud Torah compared to the average Yeshivot Gedolot’s Talmud Torah, even Yeshivot Hesder’s Rashei Yeshiva agree that it’s inferior!”

      I have never even heard of one hesder RY say such a thing, let alone a majority like you imply.

      • Jon, your evidence is from Rav Benizri’s Kuntras on the subject:

        See pp. 50-61. On p. 61, his conclusion is:

        המסקנה היא חד משמעית, מכל גדולי ישראל, ומכל גדולי רבני
        הציונות הדתית ללא יוצא מן הכלל, ערך לימוד התורה ברצף בישיבות הגבוהות, הוא
        גדול יותר מאשר שילוב צבא עם לימוד תורה.

    • I fully agree with you. However, I would like to add a few more points:
      1. The law is bad since it did not come through “VeAhavta LeReacha Kamocha” but exactly the opposite, thus the clause stating that Limud Torah could be a crime was added with no problems in spite of the fact that this is statement is originating from a country that calls itself a Jewish Country.
      2. The hidden purpose of the law is to “re-educate” the Charedim, in the army not to allow us to keep our way of life, hence some of the “tzadikim” that voted in favor of the law called for “shaving the Charedim’s beards”
      3. There is an obvious discrimination against the Chareidim.
      An example of it being the difference between the Yeshivot Hesder and the Yeshivos Gdolos. Yeshivot Hesder Talmidim are called to serve a shorter period, than the Yeshivos Gdolos Talimidim. Moreover, they receive a significantly larger payment (up to seven times) than the one payed to Yeshivos Gdolos Talmidim.

      • MSG – You make some interesting points. But you should also be aware that changes to the law mean that not one single hareidi Jew will be drafted. Since the change allows dati le’umi conscripts to count towards the hareidi induction quota, the law is effectively meaningless. Truthfully, the answer is a professional volunteer army coupled with a brief mandatory basic training program for all Israeli 18 year old men. Details of this proposal were put forward my MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud), and would do a lot to please all sides in this issue, and is very practical as well. It would remove the sin’at chinam from the controversy over military service, too, I think.

    • As an alumnus of Yeshivat Har Etzion, and as someone who teaches physical chemistry at Hebrew U, both your claim about heads of Header Yeshivot admitting their yeshivot are inferior, and your analogy about the kettle are dead wrong. I don’t know what parameter you used to quantify Yeshivot Hesder as inferior, but I have heard Rav Aharon Lichtenstein say on several occasions how he sees Hesder as superior. Personally, I don’t particularly see any advantage of one over the other as far as actual Torah learning, but without any objective parameter to back up your claim, it has no validity whatsoever, and is probably nothing but your own bias.

      About the kettle – unless your electric kettle is running on batteries, you’re using AC current which effectively turns the kettle on and off repeatedly. But this is a scientific claim. Don’t take my word for it – try it for yourself!

      • Yoni,

        Kevod Rav Lichtenstein Shlit”a Bimkomo Munah.

        However, if you read the link I linked to above, you will find that the idea of Hesder being inferior to full-year Yeshivot – or at least in theory – is not a product of my bias at all, but rather something espoused by:

        Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook ZT”L
        Rav Goldvicht ZT”L
        Rav Zevin ZT”L
        Rav Charlop ZT”L
        Rav Shaul Yisraeli ZT”L
        Rav Hayim David Halevi ZT”L
        Rav Avraham Shapira ZT”L
        Rav Mordechai Eliyahu ZT”L
        Rav Avraham Zuckerman ZT”L

        …none of whom would be considered very Haredi.

        And you don’t seem to understand my kettle analogy at all. Please reread it.

        Kol Tuv.

  4. Jody Eisenman

    Great post! Id love to read his reply.

    Sent from my iPhone

  5. Rabbi Avigdor Miller (a leading Charedi Rabbi,
    born 1908 CE, died 2001 CE) delivered a free public lecture
    in the last year of his life, in which he taught that Jews should pray
    for the Israeli Army. I personally witnessed that lecture; I was there.

  6. Met a young charedi student from a sefardi yeshiva in bnei braq of 80 students, who said they say the tefilla for the IDF. Looking forward to your friend’s reply.

  7. Reading posts by people like you,Rabbi Slifkin and MK Rabbi Dov Lipman gives me some hope that our generation still has a shot at true Torah leadership.

  8. Rene Moskovitz

    Dear Rabbi

    I have the zechut of living in Eretz Yisrael, and a friend was kind enough to send me this article,
    This article is particularly timely for me, as my youngest son will tomorrow, Be”H, be privileged to join the army, as part of his Hesder learning program.
    This is a true kiddush Hashem, and seeing as how we are surrounded by enemies who want to kill us and erase any trace of Am Yisrael, there is no doubt that this is a Milchemet Mitzvah, so he can now preform this Mitzvah Di’Orayta, that his grandparents and ancestors who lived in Europe, and perished in the Holocaust, could only dream of.

    I asked my mother, who grew up in a Chassidish family (Gur) in a shtetle in Poland if her father, uncles, etc sat and learned Torah all day. She said they did when they could, but if they didn’t work, they didn’t eat. No one in the Shtetles ever had that luxury, and except for Dor HaMidbar, this is completely unprecedented in Jewish history.

    It is so true that the Charedim have brought the scorn and, unfortunately, in some cases, hatred of their lifestyle, to the Dati LeUmi world. My husband and I both work very hard to support our family, and I resent being forced to pay through my taxes, a lifestyle where people who dress a certain way, claim to be the sole representatives of the Torah, and only truly observant servants of Hashem. Yet the way they act and treat people outside of their communities is very often disgusting and a Hilul Hashem. As I understand Yiddish, I hear and understand what they say about me, and my Kehillah, and it is absolutely horrific, yet my sons, and sons in law, protect them and all of Am Yisrael when they are privileged to serve in the army and do their Miluim – reserve duty. Now THAT is a true Kiddush Hashem.

    Thank you for saying so clearly and so cleverly how we are feeling in Eretz Yisrael, and how disappointed we are at our brothers who went to protest for all the Goyim to see, even though they don’t live here, and would never serve the nation the way our boys do. This was another act of Hilul Hashem, but unfortunately, in their eyes, they’re doing this LiShem Shomayim, even though the Torah states quite clearly otherwise. May Moshiach come speedily in our days, and return us all to do the will of Hashem.

  9. Many Charedim who protest against plans to draft yeshiva students into the army claim that yeshiva students need not serve in the Israeli Army because “Torah Protects Israel”. To those making such a claim can I ask a hypothetical question?

    We’ve all heard of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence which fires its missiles to intercept incoming missiles eg from Gaza. However, Israel does not intercept every incoming missile, because Iron Dome’s missiles cost over $100,000 each. So if Iron Dome’s tracking system predicts that an incoming missile will hit uninhabited territory no interceptor missile is fired.

    Suppose Iron Dome’s tracking system predicts that an incoming missile will hit Bnei Braq generally and in particular a major yeshiva eg Ponevezh Yeshiva. Should Israel fire an interceptor missile to save Ponevezh Yeshiva, or should Israel save $100,000 and accept the Charedi claim “Torah protects” at its face value and do nothing?

    Unless Charedim unequivocally request Israel do nothing in such a case, it is clear that they depend on the IDF for survival like all Israelis. So they must serve in the IDF like all Israelis.

    • @londoner, dont you realize… 60 rockets are shot and only 2 are intercepted by the iron dome. the other 58 didnt need iron dome because the torah learning was our protection against them. PS. has a rocket ever hit bnei brak, ever?

  10. It’s interesting that you describe the lack of religious difficulties in being in an Israeli prison, but don’t seem to comment on the religious difficulties in being in the Israeli Army. Is there glatt kosher food, a frum yid in charge of the kitchen, a fully stocked bais medrash, and lack of women barrack-mates in the Army? It’s almost that what your saying is that chareidim could reasonably have a religious objection to serving in the Army, but shouldn’t have any religious objection to being incarcerated.

    “The greatest of our people – Avraham, Moshe, Yehoshua, David, etc. – all went to war when necessary.”
    When necessary. Is it currently necessary to take learners out of the beis medrash? Is the State of Israel inadequately defended currently? Or are we going to draft learners to shorten the Army service of others who can then go to college and study French literature?

    “someone who thinks that he will not be a Gaon if he serves for a short time in the military will not be a Gaon in any event”
    That has a cute ring to it, but how many gaonim served in the Army?

    “But it is unconscionable to expect the rest of society to support a lifestyle that is alien to them, and frankly, alien to Torah.”
    That’s over the top, and you’ve lost your credibility. On two accounts. Sitting and learning isn’t alien to Torah. And it’s not unconscionable to expect a society to do what’s right just because they don’t know it’s right. Unrealistic, maybe. Unconscionable? How can you say such a thing?

    • I feel it necessary to stand up for Rabbi Pruzansky here, Reb Yid. That comment that “[b]ut it is unconscionable to expect the rest of society to support a lifestyle that is alien to them, and frankly, alien to Torah” is hardly over the top, as you say. I would add that if, on an optional basis, in which people chose to give tzedakah to support full time learning, there is merit in that. But doing so at the level of the State, by force of law, removes the tzedaka element and turns it into something quite different. And that’s why the hareidi world is such a lightening rod for non-hareidi critics. And I think Rabbi Pruzansky has demonstrated quite well via historical and halachic sources that hundreds of thousands of unemployed, full-time learners subsisting off of the State-levied taxes imposed on others, who are themselves already responsible for providing security for those full-time learners, is indeed “alien to Torah.”

    • Alan Schleider, Neve Daniel, Israel

      “… but how many gaonim served in the Army?”
      — We can start with HaRav Shlomo Goren and move on from there. Case closed.

      “…Is there glatt kosher food, a frum yid in charge of the kitchen, a fully stocked bais medrash, and lack of women barrack-mates in the Army?”
      — Yes – you are either clearly unaware of, or are willfully ignoring, Nachal Charaydi, which deals with all of the above needs, and more, of Charaydi Soldiers. Case closed again.

      “Sitting and learning isn’t alien to Torah.” Perhaps, but sitting and learning Torah to the exclusion of every other human endeavor is akin to learning Torah with the purpose of not fulfilling what one learns. We are more than happy to help with tzedaka for those who through no fault or action of their own cannot make ends meet. But as a society, it is NOT unconscionable to choose to not pay for a segment of the population which of its own free will refuses to pay for itself. So yes, for the portion of Charaydi society which choose willfully choose to not economically support itself, “Unconscionable” is a not only easy to say, it is a most appropriate word to say.

    • Being realistic is a necessary component of living in the real world. Demanding that society conform to this expectation is as unconscionable as, when you learn that your son has cancer, demanding that Hashem conform to an expectation that He heal him without the aid of medical treatment. The only effect this activism has had is hardening the hearts of secular Jews further against Torah and creating rifts between the charedi and dati leumi/modern orthodox communities. And even if Israeli society can afford the costs now, how will it afford them as the charedi community continues to grow?

      Furthermore, how can one learn simply to learn and say that is what Torah demands of us? How can you think it is not better to reach out to the other with compassion rather than demanding with apparent self-righteousness, even if you truly should have the right? If a person finds meaning in French Literature, will you bring them closer to Torah by denigrating their passion? And is it so terrible to think that perhaps many of the people who want to be full-time learners could actually do more good by protecting others and then making money to support themselves and also the poor and the needy? Learning Torah is a very great mitzvah, but it is not the only mitzvah. Only the most gifted and dedicated will ever be able to give back substantially to the pool of Torah knowledge, and for those who cannot do so, how can they justify learning without doing? As is made clear in Pirkei Avos, the two ideally should go hand-in-hand. Israel needs great scholars of Torah, but it also undeniably needs scholars of medicine and engineering and mathematics. It needs diplomats and lawyers and business leaders and bureaucrats. It even needs factory workers, chefs, cashiers, and truck drivers. Perhaps if more of the latter kinds of people were learned in Torah, that Torah knowledge could be put in practice to make Israel a more ethical place and a brighter light unto the nations.

      Even if you have answers to these questions that satisfy you, can you truly claim that no one coming from a valid perspective founded in Torah can have a different answer? And if you cannot, can you truly justify making these demands?

    • > Is there glatt kosher food
      If you are in Nachal Haredi – yes
      > a frum yid in charge of the kitchen
      Yes (in every major army base)
      > a fully stocked bais medrash
      a partially stocked based medrash in most majopr bases – but then again you are there to be a soldier not learn torah
      > and lack of women barrack-mates in the Army
      everywhere, If you go to nachal haredi added bonus of not serving with any women at all.
      > how many gaonim served in the Army
      The Steipler gaon – in the Russian army
      Rav Mordechai Eliyahu – Israeli army
      Rav Yehuda Amital – Nazi work gang and then Israeli army
      Rav Shlomo Goren
      Rav Yehuda Getz

      Now that we have established those points it follows that “what’s right” is not to send other people’s children (some of whom will one day be gaonim) to defend your life while you sit in your air conditioned Bet MIdrash.

    • Netzach Yehuda graduate

      To answer some of your questions- I served in Netzach Yehuda (Nahal Haredi) and I can confirm that there was only ever Glatt Kosher food (as can also be found on any other sizable base). Every Netzach base (and again, every sizable other base) has a full-time mashgiach in the kitchen and a fully stocked Beit Medrash. Women are housed in separate areas in the army, which are out-of-bounds to male soldiers and fully fenced in. In Netzach Yehuda, on the other hand, women are not even present on the base- roles that are filled by female soldiers in other units (welfare officers, secretarial positions etc.) are all taken by male soldiers.

    • Actually, the Nachal Haredi, a very professional and especially dedicated brigade (or two) has glatt kosher food, no women, Bet Midrash, etc.
      It is unconscionable, not just unrealistic. “Unconscionable” means unreasonable. Who decides whose Talmud Torah will be supported? What if you or I want to have our Talmud Torah supported? To where do we apply?
      You misunderstand: it is not the “sitting and learning” that is alien to Torah; it is the “no work” that is alien to Torah. Sitting and learning is the natural act of a Jew, which we must do every day for as long as if feasible.
      One other point: many have said that the illuyim should be exempted, as even the current law posits. But, based on Berachot 17a and “Echad Hamarbeh v’echad ha’mam’it…” everyone’s Talmud Torah is invaluable. Who’s to say the Talmud Torah of Illuyim is superior or more beneficial than the Talmud Torah of lesser lights?

    • I will answer your comments paragraph by paragraph.

      Reasonable people can agree that the army will have to accommodate the religious requirements of the hareidim, certainly regarding kashrut and modesty. But please explain why “fully stocked beit midrash” is a requirement. Is there a halachik necessity for every Jew to have a well stocked beit midrash at arms length at all times? I have friends who carry mini gemaras so that have torah to study wherever they go. Perhaps the hareidim can do that. Perhaps, the army can give all the hareidim shas-pods.

      It is possible that adding hareidim to the army will produce a Renaissance of the study of French literature. Nevertheless, the majority of hareidim (with proper exclusions for the real illuyim) have no less of an obligation to serve their country than any other citizen in Israel. In fact, one might argue that those of them who take government subsidies to support their families have a greater obligation to the government that supports them. In fact, it is currently the French student who has to work extra in the army so that an exempt hareidi can study Torah.

      Point well taken. I have no idea how many Gaonim served in the army. I agree that those who excel in their studies- let’s say the top .1% of students, should be exempt due to their exceptional abilities to contribute in the world of Torah. But the other 99.9% of students should do their mandatory time in service of their country and then are free to devote the rest of their lives to the study of Torah.

      “But it is unconscionable to expect the rest of society to support a lifestyle that is alien to them, and frankly, alien to Torah.” Let’s agree to replace unconscionable with unrealistic. But I agree that it is alien to Torah. It is not as you say that “sitting and learning” is alien to Torah. It is “sitting, learning, and accepting government funds to support your family” that is alien to Torah. If the local community wants to support their unending Torah study תבוא עליהם ברכה, but to demand of the Israeli community to continue to support them in this way when they are utterly unwilling to do their fare share is wrong and alien to Torah.

  11. Eliyahu Shiffman

    Dear Rabbi Pruzansky, As a resident and citizen of Israel with a son who served four years in the IDF, and now serves as an officer in the reserves, I very much appreciated your comments, and your making clear you do not make common cause with those haredim who rallied in Jerusalem and in NYC. I would, however, protest your characterizing Yesh Atid voters as “Lapid-led diehard seculars.” It is a cheap shot as well as being inaccurate. With two sitting MKs out of 19 being Orthodox rabbis, and one female MK turning her maiden Knesset speech into a gemara shiur, Yesh Atid is hardly a bastion of secularism. The significant percentage of religious Jews who voted for YA (me included) is further evidence of your mischaracterization of the party’s supporters.

    • You probably should concede that the majority of Yesh Atid’s MKs are “diehard seculars” and that the legislation they proffer is not meant to strengthen shemirat mitzvot. However, I did find it encouraging (even before the election) that they included religious Jews on their list, as did five or six other mixed parties. To me, that is a positive development. Lapid, Adi Kol, Ofer Shelach, Yael German, etc. – diehard seculars? I think so. Not cheap or inaccurate shot, but bulls eye. BUT: The presence of so many religious Jews scattered about most of the parties, including Yesh Atid, has resulted in some amelioration in the legislation proposed on a variety of issues, so a fellow like Lapid does not seem to have the animus for Torah his late father did.

  12. My aunt told me about working at Shaarei Tzedek Hospital during the Gulf War. They were very short-staffed. Two yeshiva bochurim came and helped out wherever they were needed, and they did a wonderful job. Later, my aunt asked these boys for the name of their Rosh Yeshiva and the address because she wanted to write a thank-you letter to the yeshiva for training such wonderful boys. The boys told her NOT to do that because if anyone at their yeshiva found out what they had done, they could get expelled.
    While I know many Chareidim who do not fit the stereotype, there are plenty who do, and this yeshiva is only one example. How is it wrong to expect the yeshiva students to bring their Torah studies out of their buildings and use what they learned to help Klal Yisrael in other ways? Imagine what a Kiddush Hashem that would make.
    While I understand that many Chareidim might not want to go into the army per se, I do NOT think anyone should be exempt from some form of Sherut Leumi. Again, imagine the Kiddush Hashem. And what a way to disprove the stereotypes that have generated so many bad feelings.

  13. if you really want to know, Reb Yid, YES, a man can serve in the Israeli army by being a mashgiah kashrut, a masha”k dat,a rav, amoreh hayal or even, as my son was offered, as a full time talmid hacham , learning in the main Beit Midraash l’tzava v’halacha.
    And that is aside from all the regular combat units in which hesder guys have been serving for decades with lots of Torah learning, kosher food and all-male groups. As for glatt – first of all, the army has always tried to meet hat standard, forhte sefaradim. However, in real life (as opposed to the fantasy “lechat’hila” world in which the hareidi public wishes to live), one cannot always be mahmir on everything. Sometimes one has to be meikel b’diavad. When my husband had to drive me to give birth on shabbat OR drive his army jeep on Shabbat, he didn’t say “sorry, Shabbat s more important.” The halacha says clearly that pikuah nefesh is first. And since no hareidi yishuv is willing to stop having army patrols in and around them, Obviously, they know very well that the army is HaShem’s shaliah for our security.
    The ingratitude of the hareidi public is the main reason that everyone is sick and tired of them. Trying to portray sitting in an airconditioned beit midrash with no one watching your time clock, no need to actually accomplish anything, no overtime, fully 10 weeks off a year, no night shifts, claiming that all that is “as hard as serving in the army” is biting the hand that feeds you. But the truth is, the tax money to support 30% of the population, and the miluim (reserve duty) is starting to get to people as well.

  14. Rabbi Pruzansky, I have read your blog in the past and have thoroughly enjoyed some of your posts. This topic, however, is a very sensitive issue and I feel that one should tread cautiously when offering opinions on the matter. I grew up in a community very similar to yours and was classmates with many children who grew up davening in your shul. Although I have moved more to the right over the years, and I do not consider myself a “YU guy”, I would not consider myself “charedi” either. Hence, my confusion on this topic. Logically speaking you are correct. The system is not sustainable and there is no reason why the charedi community should not join the workforce to support their families or go to the army to help protect the country (especially since there is apparently no issue with members of the charedi community abroad joining the workforce.) There are numerous sources in the Torah that one could cite to prove this position. More than those that you cited in your blog. However, with all due respect Rabbi Pruzansky, the Rabbeim in the charedi camp know those sources a little better than you and I and everyone in your camp. Yet, for whatever reason, a reason that you and I can not understand, they believe that those sources are not applicable in this situation. It pains me that I can not understand the mentality of my leaders and I struggle internally with their position, however, I realize that when one is engrossed in Torah study every available second of the day, one could have a different understanding on life and how His world works. An understanding that is unattainable to other very knowledgeable, intelligent, G-d fearing individuals like you and me. The funny thing is that when our children need shidduchim, or our wives are having difficulty bearing children, these are the people we run to for blessings and eitzahs of how to better ourselves because of their holiness. Yet, when their positions run contrary to our beliefs, we are quick to forget their stature. Once again, I myself am quite confused and disturbed by the events taking place amongst our brethren overseas, however, my friend summed it up perfectly when we were discussing this topic at our Purim Seudah yesterday: “If the Jewish nation was having a color war, I want to be on Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s team.”

    • “for whatever reason, a reason that you and I can not understand, they believe that those sources are not applicable in this situation.”
      That is the crux of it. I wish I could understand. By the way, as a good misnaged, I don’t run for brachot, except to receive Hashem’s bracha through His agents the Kohanim.

    • this comment is a great example of why the concept of daas torah has to die. It forces those who abide by it to abandon any sense of logic or independent thought and it raises “gedolim” to the level of a divinity. I wonder how far the cognitive dissonance extends. If the Gedolim insisted that 2+2=5 would it make it so?

    • JG many enormous and great Rabanim told their flocks pre holocaust not to move to Israel, and not to support the zionists….they all never got a chance to see what is a modern day miracle , the state of Israel. With all due respect they were wrong, but can never admit to it. Them and their communities totally perished …

    • JG: I don’t like to sound this cynical, but perhaps, at least in some cases, the hareidi rebbaim, especially those who work in kollelim, are indeed aware of the sources Rabbi Puzansky cites, but choose to ignore them. After all, what would happen to their own parnassa if many of their talmidim all became part-timers as they served in the IDF and continued on to work for a living? Similarly, when my daughter was in seminary in Israel, she attended lectures given by rabbis, who all worked in kollelim, on what to look for in a husband. Surprise! They all insisted that only a full-time learner would be a good husband. I asked my daughter if she felt there was any conflict of interest in a kollel rabbi insisting that only a kollel student was an appropriate choice for a husband. Sadly, she could not accept that in the hareidi world, there might by individuals with ulterior motives. But I guess that is to her credit, even if it might have been a tad naive.

  15. Charles Selengut

    Rabbi Pruzansky’s comments are politically astute and well versed in rabbinical and Talmudic literature.It is a sophisticated and sensitive argument for national service which undestands the importance of Torah study but explains on both a halachic rabbinical basis and on a sociological political basis the need for all frum Jews to partake in the defense of the State of Israel. It is a moving essay deeply grounded in Torah scholarship. I urge Rabbi Pruzansky to seek publication of this learned essay in Haredi blogs and other publications so this Torah view gets greater dissemination I suspect that though haredi people know of Rabbi Pruzansky’s Lomdus and piety, they will not publish his essay. The refusal to hear pluralistic torah views is what makes haredi Judaism so insular and fundamentalist.And threatens the future of the State of Israel.

  16. I’m really no expert, and would never claim to be, but if there was a reasonable alternative to serving, in a “hareidi-friendly” environment, that perhaps could even lead to learning skills for gainful employment, wouldn’t that be attractive for the contingent who are staying in learning to avoid military service, but do not belong there?

  17. Kenneth H. Ryesky

    I spent spent 9 years as a civilian Contracting Officer and Analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense. During that time, the matter frequently came to mind regarding the relative risks and dangers to which we were exposed as we sat at our desks, as compared to the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who were on the front lines facing the enemy. The military officers I worked with also thought about this, probably more frequently and intensely than I and the other civilians did.

    One such officer, an Army captain, had grown up in a military family, and had himself served on the front lines where the threat of hostile armed action was always present. His brothers were also military officers. He told me that he was willing to risk his life for his country if he knew that the people at the desks and in the supply bases and the training activities were doing their best to support him and his fellow frontline soldiers.

    I, for one, believe that the State of Israel could not exist if it were not for Torah learning. The soldiers in Tzahal who risk their lives so that the learners can learn have every right to expect the learners to be learning with the soldiers’ welfare in mind. Unfortunately, the yeshivishe world has sent too many messages with too strongly impart the opposite.

    [Not that it matters, but I do have some skin in this game because my son, who now learns in yeshiva, is scheduled to be inducted into Tzahal in the coming months.].

  18. Accusing charedi people for not davening for Tzahal is just ridiculous. Of course they do, as they daven for every jew who need help around the world. It’s just plain ignorance to claim so: There was no reason at first place to make a special tefilla for them since we have the tefilla of “Acheinu kol beit Israel”. That includes everybody, each and every jewish person, including Tzahal, of course. No need for a special tefila for Tzahal. If someone thinks that the tefiila that the jewish people had davened for centuries is not good enough, than it’s his problem. If someone thinks that Tzahal is not included in a teffila for Klal Isroel, than this someone is the one to blame for taking Tzahal out of klal Isroel and not the opposite.

    • If there is no need for a special tefila for Tzahal, why was there a need for a special tefila to counter the “gezeira”? Why didn’t the regular tefilot suffice? I think you protest too much!

      • Did anybody compose a new tefillah? I was there in the Atzeres, no new tefillah, just tehillim and slichos, plus “va’anenu”, the tefillah we say every day because of the drought. And Mincha! I didn’t here about any new teffilah, in any way. Or is saying tehillim in public a new teffilah? You just prove my point: we used the old good tools we have: gathering, davening, with the same tefillos we daven for thousands of years.

  19. Margo Sugarman

    Reblogged this on Margo Sugarman's Blog and commented:
    A brilliant take on the Haredi protests against conscription.

  20. If I may observe –
    Are the Chareidim causing hatred for Torah?
    Is the Hesder programme and its Torah in any way inferior to that of Chareidim?
    If there is a growing divide between the Haredi and other segments of our society and who is responsible?

    I suspect the operative consideration is that the Chareidim treat the rest of society with contempt.

    If someone says they too would love to sit and learn [and have someone else support them] then let them learn when they do have time; Sundays, evenings; sleep less, play less, entertain less etc. The Haredim generally speaking do not engage in such activities and certainly their leaders and life-guidelines strongly discourage all these, including TV.

    Yes, RaMBaM (Hilchot Talmud Torah 3:10-11) directs people to work and learn, or learn and work.

    But there is is also a well recognised precedent whereby Yissachar and Zevulun made contractual arrangements for one to nor work but learn and the other to support them.

    The Gemara of Berachos explains the first parsha of the Shema describes a time when Yidden will not work.

    The sustainability of the Chareidi lifestyle is not the real issue, the real issue is who is in charge? Who wields power?
    When someone asks, “what do the Chareidim give back to society” as though they give nothing, then we are not being asked a question but are being given an answer. The Q really is “Why are the Haredim not giving to the society what I think they ought to be giving to the society that I think is the right type of society?”
    the same misinterpretation and distorted perspective is enshrined in, “One can’t only take; one must give as well.”

    What is wrong with all Jews participating in national defense? Ask HKBH why the tribe of Levi did not participate.

    And here is a terrible distortion: “How can Zaka take time off from learning to pick up the pieces, r”l, after a terrorist attack? Why can’t the same people work to thwart the terrorist attack in the first place?”
    As though the terrorist attack occurs because the Israeli services are understaffed because the Haredim do not participate? So with one truly ugly lie, even their honourable services, such as those of Zaka – are dismissed and trivialised – shame.

    “Army service is a portal into the work force”, because the law is so structured, but it need not be.

    Here is another, “All the Tannaim and Amoraim worked for a living.” as though if the TaNaIm and AmoRaIm were here today they would condemn the Haredim, those who live their words day and night in endless learning, who have no TV, who pledge themselves to Torah with boundless commitment and do not seek to entertain themselves with frivolous past-times.

    Commitment to learning has absolutely nothing to do with being a Gaon. It is a lifestyle.

    Every thinking person, and certainly every Yid should be attracted to a “Torah” lifestyle simply because it demands estrangement from the general pointless pursuits of first world society, which seeks fulfilment in meaningless ownership and being a consumer with an unquenchable appetite. A Haredi actively fights the ugliest abuse of women – persuading them that they are objects to be valued for their ability to draw a man’s attention. SXX sells, and we need to SXX something up to make it work. Is this the honourable dignified society you wish the Haredim to engage in?

    The “social engineering” of this legislation is designed not so much to “prevent Chareidim from living Torah-true lives” but to disposes them of their group identity and political power.

    One may claim to love all Torah Jews and hate all distortions of Torah, but who will determine what is true Torah and what is distorted Torah? That is the serious political debate – who is in charge?

    • There is much to agree with and much to disagree with in what you wrote. I’ll suffice with this: Here is another, “All the Tannaim and Amoraim worked for a living.” as though if the TaNaIm and AmoRaIm were here today they would condemn the Haredim, those who live their words day and night in endless learning, who have no TV, who pledge themselves to Torah with boundless commitment and do not seek to entertain themselves with frivolous past-times.
      I would refrain from speculating who the Tannaim/Amoraim would or would not support. It is safe to assume that they would not recognize their clothing as Jewish garb, and not recognize their language (Yiddish) as a Jewish language. The disdain for work among many? I speculate that Rabban Gamliel, at least based on Avot 2:2, would not have recognized that either.
      I certainly didn’t mean to disparage Zaka’s work, just don’t quite get how that “bitul Torah” is permissible but the “Bittul Torah” of pikuach nefesh is not. If your answer is that manpower is sufficient for pikuach nefesh, I would counter that manpower is sufficient for their gruesome but sacred work.

      Every thinking person, and certainly every Yid should be attracted to a “Torah” lifestyle simply because it demands estrangement from the general pointless pursuits of first world society, which seeks fulfilment in meaningless ownership and being a consumer with an unquenchable appetite. A Haredi actively fights the ugliest abuse of women – persuading them that they are objects to be valued for their ability to draw a man’s attention. SXX sells, and we need to SXX something up to make it work. Is this the honourable dignified society you wish the Haredim to engage in?
      Such was the attitude of the Essenes, who lived as hermits in the wilderness and died out. There is a middle ground between exploitation and abuse of women (something, by the way, that occurs in Haredi and the rest of Jewish and non-Jewish society) and a fear of predation or an inability to function in the presence of women. Interestingly, the latter is less common in the Hasidic world than in the Lithuanian yeshiva world, or so it seems.

      One may claim to love all Torah Jews and hate all distortions of Torah, but who will determine what is true Torah and what is distorted Torah? That is the serious political debate – who is in charge?
      Well, the Ribono shel Olam is in charge. And He wants a people that eschews machloket, and works together for the same goals as “Ish echad b’lev echad.” In a secular sense, the elected officials are in charge, voted by the people and, in Israel, those groups that are capable of cobbling together a coalition to advance their agendas. That is what happened. By the way, it is always puzzled me how it is that the Haredi population in Israel has grown so remarkably over the last 30 years, and yet Aguda cannot seem to break the 4-5 seat barrier. Why is that?

    • “Kol HaTorah SheAin Ima Melacha Sofah Betaila v’Gorreres Avon” – Rabban Gamliel bno shel Rabi Yehudah HaNasi

  21. To the writer that argued that most Haredim want to work but employers are prejudiced against them, because they didn’t serve in the army, I understand your concerns. However, have you also considered that there is another reason for the Haredim not being hired is their lack of general education. Most jobs (and especially higher skilled jobs) require a background in math, english, verbal and written communication. With all due respect a Yeshiva education rarely includes these basics, so the prospective job seeker with only a Yeshiva background has no skills to offer his prospective employer. And in fact there are many skills that the prospective job seeker can learn in the army! This is not a matter of prejudice against the Haredim, it is a simple matter of economic law: the best educated and most skilled are hired. Until the Haredim radically change their educational philosophy they will not be hired on mass, and it is not connected to army experience or not. That’s an excuse for an educational system that is out of date.

    • I agree with that cause as well. Both reasons are true. I’m not here to defend that. However, I cannot defend the many employers who only hire army vets.

  22. How about each charedi male, at age 18, is presented with the following choice. They can enlist in the IDF. Or they can sign a statement saying, “I prefer not to serve because I believe my Torah study protects me and Israeli society. Since Torah study is protecting me, I hereby permanently give up my right to all protection from the government, including health insurance and bituach leumi (=welfare, old age pensions, disability payments, unemployment).” Up to age 25, they can reverse their decision and serve 3 years starting then.

    • for the same reason you dont similarly ask that anyone who says “the torah protects” shouldnt eat drink or use need to use a toilet, their kids dont need immunization shots, they dont need antibiotics when they have bacterial meningitis etc. hamayvin yavin…

      • Adina, don’t you see the irony?! That is exactly the point. Despite our emuna that torah protects, we exercise hishtadlut all the time! We all recognize that despite torah learning, food, drink and health care are necessary. So too I think we all realize that army service is necessary. What the Chareidi world refuses to see is that once one accepts the necessity of an armed services, the moral and logical conclusion is that all protected by said service must contribute to it equally. (Torah learning does not count as such a contribution just as it does not buy food or health insurance.)
        I believe Chareidim don’t make this connection because they fundamentally see themselves as “other”. In their view, the government and society as a whole is not composed of Jews, or at least not “true Torah Jews.” Only other chareidim qualify as such in their eyes. Given this worldview it is easy for chareidim to see themselves as an exempted class.
        If one truly believe kol areivim zeh la zeh this philosophy should never take hold. But more importantly, demographics dictate such a philosophy is simply unsustainable. A growing chareidi population means chareidim are an increasingly vital part of Israeli society. And if an increasing segment of the Israeli population identifies as Chareidi, you must realize the entire system would collapse.

        And this is the heart of the issue. Chareidim propound they they are the true Torah Jews and that all Jews ought to behave like them. But if that model were actually realized, the result would be unliveable. If every single male in the country refused army service, refused to do anything other than learn torah, the country, the entire society would collapse.

  23. Elisabeth Liss

    You say most chareidim who don’t learn Torah want to work but can’t since they have not been in the army. They can’t find work mainly because they have almost no marketable job skills due to their lack of education. They refuse to teach basic science, English and math to their male students and then expect their non hareidi brethren (of all stripes) to fund their lifestyles via government handouts. They should be saying Tfila lishlom hamedinah louder than anyone else.

  24. “This is not to disparage Hesder, who are doing 2 Mitzvot very well. However, their Torah learning is not ideal.”

    And this is exactly why Haredim are causing all Jews to hate them, and hate Torah. This quote right here is exactly the problem. It’s not only insulting, it’s backwards .

    There is only one type of Ideal Torah learning. That is learning that leads to action, and teaching. If you don’t apply your Torah learning, and you don’t Teach what you learn, then your learning is not ideal.

    The analogy of boiling water is perfect. Haredim are boiling themselves into irrelevancy, and there will be nothing left but their hot air.

    • Hi, guest. That quote right there is not only true – it’s emet La’amito. And it’s insulting and backwards of you to insinuate otherwise. There is no greater Mitzvah than full-time learning. What you are describing is a מאי אהני לן רבנן attitude, which the gemara despises.

      I’m not sure where you think I never said that those who learn all day don’t apply their Torah learning. And why you claim they don’t.

      Your “boiling themselves into irrelevency” line is not only insulting, but statistics show exactly the opposite.

      Kol Tuv

  25. Brooklyn Refugee Sheygitz

    This is a wonderfull exchange. Very well written.
    In terms of the charedim learning in jail, another suggestion I have made (and one which was made by a rabbi in a Hebrew op-ed – I can’t find the link) is that the haredim be required to learn in the framework of the IDF. They can sit and learn all day on a base in the negev or galil. for 5 years they will have to wake up and line up in a “chet” or in rows every day at 5:00 and then have shacharit, breakfast, cleanup an dthen start sedorim. in nissan before Pesach instead of a month of bein hazmanim they will help the IDF rabbinate kosher kitchens, etc. On Seder night they will do sedorim for soldiers on duty. etc etc.
    I would even add that much as golani, givati, paratroppers, kfir, etc. have their own lapel logos, the yeshiva “units” can have their own logos. A borsalino symbol for litvaks, a shtreimel for chassidim, the ottoman era rishon letzion headgear for the shas “battalion”. etc etc.

    This would ensure attendance, discipline and justify the state spending for the “protection” being offered by the torah learning. Obviously when rocket attacks happen they would put on helmets but still wouldn;t leave the base – unlike when e.g. the haredi yeshiva in netivot abandoned the town en masse while the hesder yeshiva remained and helped old people with their bomb shelters when rocket attacks started.

  26. Sharona Arbeit

    Dear Rabbi Pruzansky,

    Thank you for putting into words the sentiments that I have been trying to express for years. As an American citizen who would love to be an ex-pat, and with every gratitude to the American government, it pains me to listen to those who believe that they are living a true Torah life because their Rabbanim have not guided them otherwise. My deepest regret is not having stayed in Israel after my studies there and joined Tzahal.

    I do not need to repeat or rephrase your sentiments further, as you have once again nailed it. I will say that my numerous relatives who have served proudly via Hesder, Sherut Le’umi and straight army service are leading beautiful, Torah true lives in Eretz Yisrael, and if anything, their service has strengthened their religious values.

    As we approach the holiday of our redemption and pray for Mashiach and a rebuilt Beit Mikdash, I hope that all Jews will remember what that really means – Shevet achim gam Yachad.

    Chag Kasher v’sameach

  27. pesach aceman

    I must say that the Rav’s reply was right on. I live in a dat-leumi yishuv in Israel and have witnessed the lack of Torah learning by many young chareidim that come for vacation/the Rashbi grave site etc. I also must say that it is only the last 150 years or so that such a thing as doing no work and studying full time came into being. None of our Chachamin ever ever did this. They supported themselvesk and their families through work. Look at our great scholars – all fully employed. To not serve in the defence of the Nation of Israel is totally against Torah. We just completed Purim and who fought. We just read and witnessed Shabbat Zachor and the command to eliminate Amalek and his kind. Who did this fighting? All Jews. This current problem is one, as the Rav describes, of total isolation – not for Torah’s sake, but because of a total preoccupation with sex and lack any ability to stand up for one’s self when the Self (read Soul/Nefesh ) needs to be safequarded. This does not mean isolation but to teach and teach others how to defend one’s Nefesh from contamination and not instead of defending Israel. Most of those chareidim in chu”l have the fantasy of the Temple descending from Heaven through no work of their own (to prepare and not just to study Torah). No miracle and nothing ever came about (except in the desert after leaving Egypt) by miracles alone. Every war against the nation of Israel has been through miracles – hister hapanim of Kadosh Baruch Hu – but through the defence of the Nation of Israel by our actions. To deny and hide from this is Chalel Hashem.
    Dr Pesach Aceman

  28. Since Israel’s establishment, Arab citizens have been exempted from compulsory service in the Israel Defense Forces but still get all the benefits of bituach le’umi etc. and protection of the IDF. Why arent they ‘sharing the burden’ ?

    • I think the obvious reason is that they are not trusted. But should they do some form of community service to qualify for benefits? Absolutely.

  29. You convey the issues well.

    The big problem is that this gov’t went about things in totally the wrong way and thus created the backlash. You need to build bridges if you wish to change people, not alienate them and call them parasites. While the Tal law was slowly but surely achieving results and while Nachal Charedi was growing, and while more and more charedim were going to college, now very few charedim will join the army due to the govt’s harsh rhetoric and treatment.

    • The impetus was that the Tal law was struck down, and not at the behest of the government. One of the reasons was specifically that it was taking too long – after 12 years, the results were minimal.
      While many would like to say that the timeframe was only the 2-3 years since it was struck down and that was way too fast, the issue truly started in 1999, when the Tal committee sat after a first court ruling – and the chareidim ignored the law that came from it was struck down specifically because they didn’t heed the call.

  30. The Israeli Haredi newspaper Hamodia has produced a film video to raise funds throughout the Jewish world for Israeli kollel families.

    The video blamed the State of Israel for the high level of poverty that exists within Haredi society.
    In this next section, you will see parts of the original video together with some perspectives that we think are important to mention.

    Please- Share with people in your community!

    Some facts about Poverty in the Holy Land.

  31. Alan Schleider said:
    “Learning Torah to the exclusion of every other human endeavor is
    akin to learning Torah with the purpose of not fulfilling what one learns.”

    my response:
    Excellent! 100% true!

  32. Well written and thoughtful

  33. I proudly go to a chareidi shul, in america that does say the tfilah for tzahal, unedited. Its the Agudath Israel of Madison.

    And I attended the NY rally standing next to a well known local kiruv Rav: yarmulkas of all colors and hats of all types came over to give him Shalom.

    You made some valid points Rabbi Pruzansky: no forced Zvulun, but perhaps you didn’t make your best argument: test the Yissachars. Zvulun is tested objectively: did he earn money, did Yissacher have to sit for a test that’s tied to his income? If he can’t past the test, he should consider becoming a Zvulun. There’s place for kiruv yeshivas, but not for a lifetime.

    • I am genuinely delighted that Agudath Israel of Madison says the tefila for Tzahal. Others have mentioned a few other shuls, all in the United States.
      I hope the same could be said by others about similar shuls in Israel.

      • I daven in a chareidi shul in Ramat Beit Shemesh Alef and every shabbos, the gabbai makes a Mi shebeirach for Tzahal. To be fair, most of the congregants are American and most of the congregants are working. But, the Rav is very Chareidi and is associated with the Badatz Eida Chareidis of Yerushalaim and 95% of the kehilla send their kids to chareidi cheder/beis Yaakov and consider themselves chareidi, associate themselves with the chareidi kehilla and gedolim, etc.

  34. Dear Rabbi Pruzansky,

    Allow me first to thank you for your blog and this post and also for permitting me to post my thoughts and yet again for your time in reading and your thoughtful responses. Indeed, I know we have a great deal we agree upon, and even some of the points you consider we disagree upon, I fear that it may be a consequence of my careless structuring of my words.

    For example, I do not suggest that Bittul Torah is the Key consideration of the Haredi argument that they are pleading for, It is a Key component of their “constitution” – but so it is of every Jew’s constitution. What the Haredim are building, have already built, and do not want to see undone – is their comprehensive lifestyle and life ambitions. Everyone knows that the Torah [and any other “lifestyle”] can exist in isolation. It requires an entire system to support, encourage, politically, emotionally and spiritually, those who toil in Torah with their BeChol MeODeCha.

    No one expects EVERY entrant to university leave such institutions with a degree, an honours or a PhD. We know that many do not even finish. But that is not the ONLY point of the university’s function. It sets a tone, it fosters an environment. As does the Israeli army. As do the streets of TLV. As does Rechove Ben Yehudah. As does Meah SheArim.

    We all know this – so why do we avoid discussing openly this which is the key feature of the conflict?

    We all know, Rabbi, that you certainly did not mean to disparage Zaka’s work. That you recognise that the volunteers or paid employees of Zaka are not in any way contributing to an inability or a weakness in the IDF to defend and protect the Yidden and others living in EY. I was only helping to clarify that thought. And certainly, manpower could be found amongst those who are not Haredim for this holy work, but not all Haredim can or want or are yet ready to devote themselves 24/7 to TTorah. But they do identify and belong and support the Haredi lifestyle. In their capacity and work at Zaka their environment is governed by their rabbis and they have an environment where they feel comfortable and where their leaders feel they have adequate control and can afford the required protection from whatever they suspect might erode their identity.

    The Essenes died out, but the Haredim have been around for a long, a V long time. They have learned to adapt where necessary and bend but also when to hang on and hold tight through the storm.

    There is indeed a middle ground between exploitation and abuse of women and the Haredi attitude is that it is better to err on the other side. Seems to be a successful strategy.

    In every Machloket each side says it is right and the other ought to compromise and that Shalom is to be accomplished by doing it my way.

    But People can work towards the same goals even when they are doing different things. Business partners, and marriages, work well when each recognises the valuable contribution of the other. But when one begins to think the other is not pulling their weight – then the problems begin.

    Lastly, I apologise for the misunderstanding but I did not say WHAT the Amoraim or Tanaim would say I just wondered that it seemed to me at least, that others were saying, “All the Tannaim and Amoraim worked for a living” thereby suggesting that the Tanaim and Amoraim would not be happy with the Haredi lifestyle – to which I posted – “as though if the TaNaIm and AmoRaIm were here today they would condemn the Haredim” I agree with you Rabbi wholeheartedly, we should refrain from speculating about such things.

    • If I may offer a “rebuttal” of sorts…

      1) “No one expects EVERY entrant to university leave such institutions with a degree, an honours or a PhD.”
      True – but we do expect one who repeatedly fails at university to find another avenue of study, income or change majors to something he will do well in.
      This is not something you generally hear the chareidim say about someone who doesn’t have any aptitude for full-time, life-time study. They are encouraged to stay anyhow, lest they be seen as second rate.

      2) “It sets a tone, it fosters an environment. As does the Israeli army. As do the streets of TLV. As does Rechove Ben Yehudah. As does Meah SheArim.”

      It is not the environment that sets the tone for the people; it is the people who set a tone for the environment. If that is your *only* (or main) objection, work to make it suitable rather than walk away with fingers in your ears. That is what DL did with Hesder. Let the chareidi do the same for their service.

      “We all know this – so why do we avoid discussing openly this which is the key feature of the conflict?” – my point exactly, why won’t the chareidi parties discuss this with the army?

      3) “…not all Haredim can or want or are yet ready to devote themselves 24/7 to Torah. ”
      Correct again. So why won’t the chareidi leaders admit to that?

      …”their environment is governed by their rabbis and they have an environment where they feel comfortable and where their leaders feel they have adequate control…

      You basically admit that the rabbis need to have control over their flock’s lives in order to agree to something other than limmud Torah instead of trusting in their Yirat Shamayim.

      4)”The Essenes died out, but the Haredim have been around for a long, a very long time”
      Not as long as you think they have. Unless 200 years (give or take) is considered a long time when we’re talking about the whole course of Jewish history. As for lifelong, full-time limmud Torah being the norm for the klal instead of work, that is even more recent.

      5) “There is indeed a middle ground between exploitation and abuse of women and the Haredi attitude is that it is better to err on the other side.”
      That comment did not make much sense. If your two sides are exploitation and abuse, you’re picking a losing position no matter which way you pick. How about erring on the side of respect?

      6) Finally, on your earlier point of ” It requires an entire system to support, encourage, politically, emotionally and spiritually, those who toil in Torah with their BeChol MeODeCha.”:
      MeodeCha is not Meodei AChiCha.
      So while I will not speculate on what the Tannaim and Amoraim would say in the 21st century, I can still rely on what they did say, on what the Rishonim said, on what the SA says, which seem to indicate that one must support oneself and that all must defend each other in times of danger.

      • A D, Shalom.
        I appreciate your taking the time to read and then address my thoughts; you grant the opportunity to clarify my thoughts

        You make a V fair observation: We do expect those who repeatedly fail at university to find another avenue of study, income or change majors to something he will do well in.

        I agree, and the Haredi world has successfully developed and continues to develop avenues for such parts of their group, but keep in mind, those avenues do not conform with what those who oppose the Haredi wish to see them participating in. It is again a part of their world view – they wish to provide an environment that nurtures, from cradle to grave, their values. What are they to do if the law is formulated by those who oppose those life values, and the laws therefore prevent them from engaging in gainful occupation that does not threaten to erode their life values?

        However, I don’t accept that your next observation is balanced. You say: It is not the environment that sets the tone for the people; it is the people who set a tone for the environment.

        You are right of course, Lo HaMaKom MeChaBed Es HaIsh, Ella HaIsh MeChaBed as MeKoMo; but surely you would not expect the American Red Indians to retain their culture if they are exposed to and immersed in the modern USA culture. Even if they retain the symbols of their heritage, driven in part perhaps by it being a money earner for them as a tourist destination, will their life values, their internal calibration not suffer a serious permanent setback and perhaps be unrecoverable?

        The DL have chosen their path and they have their leaders, and their opponents – from both ends. Surely you cannot be suggesting that the Haredim adopt the position of the DL and abandon their own legitimate aspirations?

        Perhaps I should put it like this – ask the Haredim what would they like to do in order to contribute to the common good of the society they live in; but do not ask them to contribute to the State since that is a request that they concede a matter of principle. I have often made this point by asking the following question – What Difference Does It Make if they do or do not recognise the State? If they are suspected of actively agitating to politically promote their views, even if it means destabilising the State [and I do not for a moment believe that is the case other than for an extreme and an extremely tiny fringe group], is this not a democratic process? And I do not think that anyone suspects even the extremist fringe group of engaging in violence against anyone or any machinery of the state.

        Which leads me to my next point – which you say is exactly your own point, “why won’t the chareidi parties discuss this with the army?”
        and here is the answer: Because the IDF is a State governed institution and as the saying goes the most feared words ever to be spoken or heard, “We are from the Government and we are here to help” There is nothing to negotiate with the Govt. A decision has been made and if you do not conform you are an enemy of the State. and now a criminal.

        Its the elephant in the room – Who is in charge of these young men and women, their rabbis or the IDF? A Gd fearing believer in our ancient traditions or someone who might not be so quite Gd fearing?

        3) Of course the chareidi leaders admit that, “…not all Haredim can or want or are yet ready to devote themselves 24/7 to Torah. ”

        They don’t say that because A) it is irrelevant, as I explained Haredim are not looking to have people learning, they are seeking to construct a lifestyle that supports that ideal, that cherishes such devotion and that appreciates wholeheartedly the value of such intensity; B) the cacophony of abuse hurled at the Haredim upon such an admission would obliterate any opportunity to have a sensible discussion.

        Then you say that I admit that the rabbis need to have control over their flock’s lives; yes that is true and I see nothing improper or unusual about that. Every lobby group, every issue group are busy promoting their sales and their message be it PETA or Palestinians. Why should the Haredi not be recognised as being legitimately engaged in promoting the sustainability of their lifestyle – which as I said earlier must be recognised as being a primary, if not THE primary energy that has given us our strength and sense of purpose and confidence to live through the history of the entire world’s abuse, persecution and intent to destroy us. and still survive intact and stronger than ever.

        4) I shall not discuss history just observe that the Tribe of Levi had special status, that Yissachar and Zevulun had a special relationship, that the Manna was put in a jar to be preserved and to be displayed to remind us that when we are loyal to Gd, our sustenance is cared for, see Rashi BeShalach; and that the Gemara explains the first Parsha of the Shema makes no reference to work – it is describing a time when we are Osin ReTzoNo Shel Makom.

        5) “There is indeed a middle ground between exploitation and abuse of women and the Haredi attitude is that it is better to err on the other side.”

        Since I did not explain myself clearly, I will do so now. Our modern society has demeaned women in the worst possible way, it does its utmost to persuade them that they have little or no value unless they have the ability to draw attention to their physical beauty. It has robbed them of their minds and their ability to think about themselves in a truly honourable and dignified way. So there are those who rail against the way the Haredim treat their womenfolk; but even if the protesters are right [and I think on the whole they are wrong] I say that the Haredim have taken the issues of Tznuis and have erred on the side of caution. Is that something about which they deserve to be condemned? We ought to be awarding them prizes and accolades for raising children who are well balanced, thoughtful, have a true sense of shame and integrity deeply rooted in the fibre of their identity, who eschew the cosmetic, illusions of the misleadingly named First World cultures. Is there a sane person on this planet who denies that the Haredim have far less problems with all – with every single issue – that plagues the first world cultures? Would you suggest that Haredi life will be improved if their womenfolk wear more revealing attention seeking exhibitionist dresses?

        6) Finally, on your earlier point of ” It requires an entire system to support, encourage, politically, emotionally and spiritually, those who toil in Torah with their BeChol MeODeCha.”: and you correctly point out that that this does not mean with the energy money and patience of others.
        So let me ask – when our State, the State of Israel, and Israeli society invests money time and energy into assisting those who are struck by natural disasters, do you not feel a sense of pride? When Israel wins a gold medal at the olympics, a Nobel Prize, when Steven Harper says that Israel is a light unto the nations, do you not experience a buzz and swell up a little bit taller?

        All that is but only a tiny weeny sense of accomplishment that we should all feel when we recognise the spirituality, the integrity, the selflessness and sacrifice made by the Haredi population. Yes, the media will find and highlight the bad apples and attempt to draw attention to them and disparage or imply that they are really all like that – and the Haredim are an easy target, Jews always are.

        The Tannaim and Amoraim and the Rishonim and the SA all seem to indicate that one must support oneself, I agree but are we, is the State of Israel permitting the HAredim to do that or are there pre-conditions that demand they betray their principles?

        All must defend each other in times of danger, I agree, I am sure every Haredi agrees. But again the implication appears to be that the State is a less secure place because the Haredim do not join the IDF; that is simply not true and it is simply a decoy. It is not the issue being battled over. The battle is about the type of leadership the State should have. Should it be run by Gd fearing people or by those who tolerate, to some extent, Gd fearing people?

  35. Israel was created by Zionists who were not religious, however, they allowed any Jew to enter the country. The only group besides the Arabs that denied Israel’s political reality was the ultra Orthodox for reasons I’m sure u understand; however, that group’s distortion of present day conditions doesn’t allow it to undermine Israel’s viability by claiming exemption from the country’s needs

    • To May Herlands: Just to clarify, the hareidim are not “undermining Israel’s viability” by seeking to avoid military service. The IDF rejects about half of all conscripts as it is, with many of those drafted placed in meaningless assignments, and given busy-work to fill their time. I suppose in the event of a national emergency, it would be helpful to have more reservists of previously trained soldiers, but they are hardly required right now. Furthermore, the people pushing hardest for inducting hareidi men are the ones most fearful of what it would mean for the IDF if their plan would actually be executed. The left in Israel, although a shadow of its former self, maintains hegemony in the courts, media and military. As their numbers decline, while the numbers of observant Israelis (hareidi and dati-leumi included) expand, these parts of society will inevitably open up to more right-wing elements in society (it has already begun in the military). Drafting hareidi men would accelerate that process in the IDF, which would horrify the left. While I personally feel an all-volunteer, professional military (coupled with a brief mandatory basic training for all 18 year old men, hareidim included) is the best answer for the whole contoversy, the move to draft hareidim was proposed by the left, mainly, I believe, to “stick it to” the hareidi Israelis who have lost their political influence in the current governing coalition.

      Perhaps Israel would be better off if there were more integration of hareidim into the military and work force, but their absence, to the extent it exists, is only a modest drag on the economy, and no drag at all on the military.

      • 10% of the total population is Haredi, hardly a factor to be “fearful” of by the remaining 90% who serve. Besides, of that majority, Religious Zionist are already disproportionately represented in the IDF and it’s officer corps, – servivce being a key component of their ethos. In addition the IDF already incorporates Jewish religious practice such as Shabbatt and Kashrute. How much more religious does he think it might become?

        ” I suppose in the event of a national emergency, it would be helpful to have more reservists of previously trained soldiers, but they are hardly required right now.” So let’s wait for the emergency before training them when it will be to late.

        ” with many of those drafted placed in meaningless assignments, and given busy-work to fill their time” clearly demonstrates that u have no idea how a military organization works. The vast majority of those in any such organization function in support of the combat arms rather than in combat rolls. In Israel they also support various civil functions as well (like going door to door checking on the welfare of civilians during the snow storm in Jerusalem earlier this year.)

        But the that doing one’s civic duty for sharing the burden and – if necessary – the sacrifice to be worthy of protection the IDF. I would also suggest that the “all-volunteer, professional military” you advocate is exactly what has led the US astray in its political decision making process since the elimination of the Draft, thereby removing the constraints associated with these shared responsibilities. Are u really afraid of the influence of the interaction with the community at large on their otherwise isolated youth?

      • May Herlands: I think you misunderstood the tone of my post. I am, for the most part, not opposed to a hareidi draft. I just think there may be other solutions to the controvery that are not being considered because both sides on this are too dug in to their positions. I am not worried about how “much more religous” the IDF might become. The IDF has a tradition, at least officially, of accomodating the needs of all of its members, and I expect this to continue.

        The professional all-volunteer army proposal includes a madatory basic training program for all eligable conscripts, so that in an emergency, there could be a call up followed by additional, but forshortened, training. Details of this proposal can be found here:

        My comments regarding the lack of activities for many doing their service in the IDF comes from anecdotal evidence. I personally know numerous IDF members past and present that complain of either doing nothing all day, or being given meaningless busy work.

        I must disagree with you on the pros & cons of a professional army. Following the end of the active draft in the U.S., the U.S. military was widely regarded as one of the finest fighting forces in the world. It is the politicians that have made many bad choices, especially in the current administration, that have damaged both the quality and quantity of U.S. military capabilities.

        I am not at all afraid of interaction between hareidim and other Israelis. I am proud and pleased that more hareidim are chosing to enlist, and I think that trend would intensify if the IDF were an all-volunteer force. I personally think both the hareidim and non-hareidim would benefit from more hareidi involvement with Israeli society. If hareidi parents educate their children properly, they have nothing to fear from such interaction, either.

  36. When a Jew recites Tefilat Shemoneh Esrei, he permitted to add his own personal prayer requests in the middle of the final paragraph, which begins with Elokai Netzor Leshoni MeiRa. I recently began adding the prayer for the IDF in that part. I know this is not the way it is normally done, but it is permitted, and I can say it that way in any synagogue, any day except Shabbat or holidays.

  37. Dear Rabbi Pruzansky,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic. I appreciate the honesty which you express in all of your posts and your openness to the feedback you receive in the comments.

    While I take issue with several things that you wrote (at least some of which have been raised by others), they all pale in comparison to one: Why do you a feel the need, let alone the right, to use the loshon of “Talmid Chacham she’ein bo da’at”?

    I understand that you think you’re correct on this matter. Whenever one expresses his opinion, by definition he believes it to be correct. And perhaps other rabbonim agree with you as well. But aren’t we talking about dozens of big Talmidei Chachamim, Poskim, Roshei Yeshivos and Marbitzei Torah who have spent their lives immersed in Torah?! Isn’t it at least possible that they’re right and you’re wrong? Couldn’t you have expressed your position while still showing a bit of respect for theirs?

    And even if you’ll say that you’re 100% convinced that you’re right and they’re wrong, why do you feel the need to denigrate these Torah scholars by speaking of them in such a way? Couldn’t you have at least shown some kavod, if not for their opinions, for their gadlus in Torah?

    • Actually, I think that is the point of the Midrash. There can be great Torah scholars who have no “daat,” meaning common sense, derech eretz, etc. Far be from me to even suggest that any particular person, rabbi, Gadol is in that category. Chas v’shalom. But what interested me most is that Chazal had such a concept, and that concept was in the Midrash Raba of Parshat Vayikra, when all these events were taking place.
      Again, I was not at all insinuating that such is applicable to any particular Rav, and I thank you for giving me the chance to clarify.
      Thanks for writing.

  38. Rabbi Pruzansky-
    I think there is a basic point that we have wrong here. We, as Americans, and certainly the dati leumi Rabbanim are not “anti” charedi. We do not want to see the end of Torah Judaism. We simply would like to see some reform within the charedi world.

    However, the secular community in Israel IS anti-Torah and would like to see the end of Torah and halacha in Israel. This is a fact. If you would live here and talk to secular Israelis and read secular literature, you would know this. Now, as politicians they are intelligent and are careful in how they word things, but do not be naive, their goal is to make Israel a secular state.

    We have a case here, where the STATED goal is the same (i.e you goal and the secular goal), but the ideology and true desired outcome is very different.

    I know for you this is really about the draft. And there is much credit to the position that the charedi world should contribute more and certainly be more forward with its expressions of hakarat hatov.

    But in Israel, this in not really about the draft.
    By the way, the charedim have already made reforms regarding the draft. HaRav Shteinman has risked a lot and as a true leader he has courageously supported many of reforms. I know they are moving slowly, but we need to exercise patience (Unfortunately, these recent events have retarded that process).

    Even you position about charedim and the work force and noseh be’ol is sincere but faulty. You impression of charedi involvement in the work force is from the media. If you actually lived in a charedi community you would know that most families DO work (in many families it is the mother). In this area as well there have been great strides forward, and these reforms will only continue. The charedim also do a tremendous amount for the greater community, be it outreach, or tzedakah. They shouldn’t be branded as not caring about others.

    Your claim that the educational system is in disarray is also faulty. The boys are extremely developed intellectually and can and do join the work force. Perhaps it is in more blue collar professions, but not everyone must become a lawyer and doctor.

    Last point: I accept your perspective, but let’s not call other approaches “distortions of Torah.”

    On any of your recent visits to Israel – did you ever seek out an audience with one of the charedi “gedolim” in order to hear their view? There are many great charedi thinkers who would be happy to have a conversation with you. Why not visit one of them and present your view of Torah and hear what he has to say?

  39. Rabbi Wein says the following very important point after criticizing the charedi community in this week’s column:

    “The solutions are difficult and they cannot be dictated or legislated no matter how popular such steps may appear to be.”


    The Mishnah in tractate Kiddushin, page 76A states:

    A kohen who wishes to marry must investigate the genealogy of the woman of his choice in order to establish that she is halachically permitted to marry a kohen. However, if she is the daughter of a kohen who served in the Temple [whose genealogy was already confirmed] or the daughter of a member of the Sanhedrin or the daughter of a soldier in King David’s army, he need not investigate the woman’s genealogy.

    The Gemara explains that King David drafted into his army only the most genealogically and spiritually suitable. David’s logic was that in war, Hashem weighs the relative merits of the litigants. Therefore, it is essential that our side be overwhelmingly more righteous than the enemy.

  41. Warren Kasztl

    This is a brilliant response to the problem addressed. Rabbi, you always succeed in hitting the nail squarely on the head!!

  42. The Shul of the Tolne Rebbe in Yerusahlaim says the tefila for Tzahal. I have not personally heard it there, but I did personally hear the Rebbe say, on an MP3, shiur i downloaded, that he insists it be said in his shul.

  43. Jeff Schwartz

    While I found this exchange fascinating, I am troubled that both correspondents really did not address the elephant in the room. No amount of logical discourse offered by someone like Rabbi Pruzansky can have any effect on those who cling to the belief, founded on some combination of the concepts of Da’as Torah and Emunas Chakhamim, that those they consider to be Gedolim cannot be wrong. How can any individual Chareidi’s position on these issues be wrong when it merely reflects the view of the majority of the greatest Jewish men in the world as to how a Jew should be living his life?

    • I think there is another elephant unaddressed. They genuinely believe that the State of Israel would cease to exist if their contributions were to be somehow altered. Thus, any change is tantamount to national suicide.
      Hence, the stalemate.

      • Jeff Schwartz

        I must confess that you are far more dan l’chaf zechut than I. I see the argument that the State continues to exist only because of the Torah learning of Chareidim as a pretense at best. The notion that if most full-time yeshiva students in Eretz Yisrael would take a year or two off to serve in the army, there would be insufficient Divine protection of the State is too ludicrous for me to imagine even the greatest ideologue to take seriously.

        Moreover, given that the vast majority of Chareidim philosophically continue to believe that the State never should have come into existence in the first place (a necessary belief for one who believes that the majority opinion of the Gedolei Torah can never be wrong about anything), any expression of concern for the cessation of existence of that State would appear to be disingenuous. Perhaps you meant to say that they believe that their Torah learning is necessary to defend the lives of the soldiers and the citizens from war and terrorism.

        In any event, I agree that it’s a stalemate. Arguing with individual Chareidim largely is useless. If you can’t get their leaders to change what they tell their people to think, it’s hopeless.

  44. Jeff Schwartz

    I just wanted to add that I thought Rabbi Pruzansky’s letter was extremely well-written and said most of the things that those of us on his side of the issue would have wanted to say. I think it found the proper balance between strong criticism and maintaining respect for the people on the other side, not a simple feat judging from much of the other things I have seen published on Jewish sites. Copies of this exchange were being passed around and discussed in my shul this Shabbos. My comments above should have been preceded by my comments here.

  45. Jeff,
    I can assure you that in Chareidi Shuls, they were davening on Shabbos rather than passing around copies of this exchange and talking about it.

    • Jeff Schwartz

      You’re correct. We’re not as frum in my shul as in the Chareidi shuls. We don’t daven between Musaf and Minchah. I daven in a hashkama minyan, after which we have a kiddush, and then a shiur (which I teach, btw), and some people even talk and discuss things during the kiddush, before the d’var Torah, that is. Outside of Chareidi circles, some people might even consider us to be frum Torah Jews, who are sho’m’rei Torah u’mitzvot. But of course, they don’t have any Gedolim to teach them the truth.

  46. Wow, Rabbi. Just wow.
    No one needs my Haskama, but this is really impressive.