Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Weakness - Drafting Yeshiva Students

“K a h a n e”

The magazine of the authentic Jewish Idea

November-December 1988 Cheshvan – Kislev 5749

The following article written in 1988 is one of the top topics today in the Knesset and all-segments of the Israeli people. It is the TAL Law. Rabbi Kahane writes who should go into the army, who should not in this obligatory war we are fighting against our enemies. Separate unit for ultra-Orthodox in the army etc. This article should be handed to Prime Minister Netanyahu and to all rabbis. Amazing that Rabbi Kahane hit on the problem so many years ago, and came up with a solution. Interesting reading for all.

The Weakness

In their obsessive attack on authentic Jewry, what have the haters not touched upon? How the “ultra-Orthodox”dress; how they speak; how they cheat; how they are parasites; how they are aggressive; how they keep to themselves. All the horrible charges dredged up by the Nazis against the Jewish people, per se.All the Jewish anti-Semitism that is as brutal and nauseating as the gentile kind.

But amidst all the lies and calumny and defamation and sheer hate, there is one point which the haters have seized upon which strikes a tragically responsive chord in many a Jew in Israel who is not anti-religious. That is the question of army service for Yeshiva students.

Let it be clear. There is nothing more important for the Jewish people than the study of Torah. Upon Torah study does Israel – and the world –rest. Torah scholars are infinitely more important to Israel than any category of professionals and it is not relevant that secular Jews do not grasp this.

“The study of Torah is greater than the building of the Holy Temple.”

“The study of Torah is greater than honoring parents.”

“The study of Torah is greater than the priesthood and the kingship”

There is clear, beyond debate. The question that remains, however is: what does a scholar do in the time of a milchemet mitzvah, an obligatory war, one of the categories that Maimonides (Hilchot M’lachim 5:1) lists: And what is an obligatory war? The war against the seven (Canaanite) nations; the war against Amalek, and aiding Israel against an enemy that comes up against them.”

If ever there was such a war as mentioned in the third category it is surely this struggle against the Arabs who come up against us to destroy Israel.

Given that, it is surely a halachic question whether anyone is exempt from such a war. Maimonides brings down the Braita (Tractate Sotah) and declares: “In an obligatory war, all go out (to battle), even the bridegroom from his room and the bride from her canopy.”(Hilchot M’lachim 7:4)

Whether this includes those scholars who do nothing but learn is a question that many of the commentators deal with but it is certainly something to consider. What is clear is that the entire issue is one that has led to tremendous anger and bitter antagonisms on the part of many Jews who are not haters of Torah Judaism and let no one underestimate the damage and Hillul Hashem that this is causing. The fact that sons of some Jews go into army and risk danger to life while others do not, is an explosive one that leads to intense bitterness especially when it is fanned by the professional inciters of Torah-hating Left.

If the halachic, nevertheless, says that scholars shall not go into the army – then that settles the issue, not matter how critical and bitter it will become. But surely, the rabbis must deal decisively and courageously with the issue and not allow internal pressure from certain groups within the religious community to sway them or cause them to hesitate to rule forcefully if the halachic does call for army service for all scholars in the event of a milchemet mitzvah.

On the other hand, it is clear that a student who does not devote his entire time to Torah study; who does not “mediate therein day and night”;who studies only most or part of the day but also works or gives of his time to other things, is surely obligated to participate in a milchemet mitzvah.If one’s dedication to Torah is not total and one can find time to work, then he can certainly find time to participate in the obligatory war of defending his land and sanctifying the Name of the Almighty, which is the basis of a milchemet mitzvah.

The main argument against this, aside from that of “bitul Torah” taking time away from the learning of Torah, is the one that, a yeshiva scholar who is placed in the environment of the army can easily be led astray. There is much, very much to this. As one who has served for many years in the army, I can testify to the almost total lack of anything sacred in the army. Not only is the atmosphere one that is totally secular but the immorality surrounding women soldiers is nothing short of scandalous. (And spare me the hypocritical pieties of: Do you not have enough faith in yeshiva students to trust them to overcome all this? I will accept this argument from all the parents who will see nothing wrong in allowing their children to wander freely in any kind of atmosphere and accept their angry complaint: Don’t you trust me?)

Nevertheless, there is a solution to this, also. The army can be asked to set aside a large army base for the exclusive use of religious scholars. There, they will undergo the same kind of training that other soldiers do and there they can have their rabbis visit each night and pass on Torah lessons to them. It will be a base which will be totally religious, sacred and moral –but an army base in every sense of the word.

Is such a suggestion so extreme? Hardly. It will find favor in the eyes of G-d and Jews. Consider how it would take from the Haters of Torah the most potent of weapons. Consider how it would sanctify the Name of G-d. And above all, there is no doubt that it is an accord with halachic.

Let those whose entire life is committed to Torah study be exempt, if the sages decide that even an obligatory war does not bind them. But the others, the many others, who study only partially, cannot avoid the halachic obligation to participate in the milchemet mitzvah of defending the Land of Israel from the enemy that comes up against it.

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