Tzarich Iyun > “Seder Iyun”: Deliberations > In the Army Now? On Charedi Society and Military Service > “Shall Your Brothers Go to War?” — Internalizing the Army Imperative

“Shall Your Brothers Go to War?” — Internalizing the Army Imperative

Response Article To "In the Army Now? On Charedi Society and Military Service"

There may be good reasons for Yeshiva students to refrain from serving in the IDF, but there is certainly no justification for ignoring the moral imperative. It is our duty to recognize this basic demand, for our own good.

Tamuz 5781; June 2021

My ten-year-old daughter came home from school one day with the following question: “Is it true that if all of Israel’s soldiers would study in Yeshiva instead, we wouldn’t need an army?” “No,” I answered matter-of-factly. “The Tanach tells us of many wars and battles, and no Jewish king or prophet ever considered abandoning the battlefield for the sake of exclusive Torah study.” “But why the question?” I asked. “Because this is what the teacher said in class,” she replied, “and one of the girls argued with her.”

The first time I ran into this argument in a school setting, I assumed it was a one-off. Perhaps an eccentric teacher with an extremist ideology. However, when the phenomenon repeated in different variations, I took it more seriously. The Charedi website “Shteigen” employs similar arguments to justify the avoidance of army service: “For ourselves,” explains one author to his Charedi readership, “we have no issue with the question of why we don’t serve. We know that if the entire Jewish People were to join us, there would be no wars.” a certain cheder (elementary school) teacher outdid himself when he taught the class that Israeli soldiers are a “suicide army” and the whole affair is just a tragic waste of human life. If they only studied Torah, we could entirely avoid this unnecessary bloodshed.

Such nonsense, combined with copious amounts of arrogance and condescension, is not representative of general Charedi opinion. I am certainly not alone in finding such statements deeply offensive. Yet, their presence within ordinary Charedi schools (Litvish, in my case), alongside the fact that I’ve never heard any protest on the part of parents, teachers, or principals on this issue, highlights a deeper trend that requires attention. In short, the problem is that we have no organized, thought-out, and well-articulated approach concerning army service. We don’t even have a disorganized one. Given this ideological vacuum, it’s no wonder that all sorts of dubious views have taken root. Ultimately, they cause significant harm.

Ours is an era of frequent and inevitable exposure to non-Charedi content, values, and people, forcing us to think and educate even where we would otherwise refrain from doing so. Beyond the ideological plane, the State of Israel increasingly needs Charedi partnership in society, in public discourse, in politics, in education—everywhere. Even in the army

In this brief article, I wish to present an internal Charedi approach concerning the question of “Charedim and the army”—a question that comes up often in Israel’s political setting and is often raised around Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers—with an emphasis on the moral aspect. Beyond taking any specific position, the discussion itself is of high importance. It’s about time we took the issue with the seriousness it deserves.

In the past, too, there was a need to justify Charedi non-service, whether internally (so we understand why our approach is right and moral) or outwardly (to rebuff attacks against “draft-dodging Charedim”). It seems, however, that even those who once endorsed simple adherence to Rabbinic objection to Charedi service in the IDF now require answers. The State of Israel increasingly needs Charedi partnership in society: in the workforce, in education, in politics—everywhere. And as participation inevitably grows, so the question of army service looms ever darker. We need to respond.

I will open by formulating the problem—the moral claim and its attendant issues. I will then cover various arguments that are raised concerning the Charedi draft, noting that most derive from the urge to brush off the moral claim, leading to distortions in our thought and even also in our Torah understanding. This includes the issue of pitting Torah study against military service (“I served the state by studying Torah,” as MK Moshe Gafni sometimes notes), which is also riven with confusion. Finally, I will get to the heart of the matter, arguing that making progress in traversing the minefield of “Charedim and the IDF” must rely on a recognition of a mutual moral obligation: one towards general society, and the other towards Charedi society.

I will end with a partial vision for the future. It remains sketchy at best, and much work must be done to give it flesh and substance. But any semblance of a vision is better than none.


“Shall Your Brothers Go to War and You Shall Sit Here?”

“Shall your brothers go to war while you sit here?” (Bamidbar 32:6). This, in a nutshell, is the fundamental and uncomplicated moral claim placed at the doorstep of Charedi society. The Torah presents the argument as a rhetorical question. Moshe Rabbeinu considered it indisputable: No parts of the nation, even those that took their portion outside the boundaries of the Promised Land, could be absent from the war effort against the nations of Canaan. The entire nation was charged with the national mission of conquering the land. It was clear to all that even the tribes of Gad and Reuven would do their part.

Circumstances today are different, but the demand from Charedi society is not dissimilar. We live in an age when the Jewish People are privileged to have returned to their land, maintaining a Jewish national life in which different groups—secularists, traditionalists, religious, and Charedim, each with its numerous sub-groups—get to participate. But our ability to live here is contingent on our capability to defend ourselves against enemies seeking to destroy us, whether by active war or by the deterrence achieved by military strength. Since its inception, the model for the State of Israel is a “people’s army,” including an obligatory draft for all except Israeli Arabs, religious women, and Yeshiva students. In practice, the “Yeshiva students” category includes the overwhelming majority of draft-age Charedim, irrespective of their studiousness or otherwise.

Why should a non-Charedi mother lose sleep over the fate of her uniformed son while Charedi mothers sleep soundly at night, and even take pleasure in their son’s presence at the Shabbos and festival tables?

We all benefit from the sacrifice of IDF soldiers—a sacrifice of close to three years that can involve loss of life (God forbid), injuries, and experiences that leave not a few physical and emotional scars. True, there is no equity in army service; some engage in combat duty while others sit by computers. But all except Arabs and Charedim participate. The exemption for Arabs does not involve heated public debate; their place in a Jewish national army fighting against Arab enemies raises complex issues that form sufficient grounds for exemption. But what moral justification is there for Charedi society to enjoy the protection of the IDF without doing its part for the shared defense? Why should a non-Charedi mother lose sleep over the fate of her uniformed son while Charedi mothers sleep soundly and even take pleasure in their sons’ presence at the Shabbos and festival tables?

I wish to start with the assertion of this piercing moral demand. It contains neither cynicism nor mockery, neither hatred nor hostility. We face a simple duty by every moral yardstick. The Torah endorses it, as does the basic imperative of human decency to which we are also bound. In ignoring it, let alone summarily dismissing it, we do ourselves a grave injustice, even before doing so to others—injustice in repressing our moral sense and injustice regarding our duty to perform the good and just in the eyes of God.

As I will clarify below, I am not arguing that all Charedim need to enlist en masse; nor do I claim that there is no defense for Charedi avoidance of army service. But absent this basic moral assumption, we cannot hold an honest and reasonable discussion of the issue. If we cannot recognize the demand and treat it with the gravity it deserves, we will surely be unable to reach any solution, whatever it may be, to the predicament. Beyond that, denying the problem causes us much collateral damage, deepening the moral pit we would already be digging ourselves.


Turning a Blind Eye

The prevalent attitude within Charedi society toward military service could be characterized as “willful blindness.” The army and IDF soldiers are barely present in Charedi elementary and secondary education. On IDF Memorial Day, Charedi schools continue “business as usual.” No ceremonies are held to mark fallen soldiers, and, for the most part, the siren is ignored. Teachers might even warn students that this is a “goyish custom” unworthy of practice, while some exceptional educators will dedicate the time to a recitation of Tehillim. Moreover, Charedi synagogues do not customarily pray for the sake of IDF soldiers (though some Shuls, mine included, include the prayer). Aside from war-related news items, the Charedi public sphere is IDF-free.

The “solution” of simply ignoring the moral issue is deeply problematic. The first result is distance, detachment, and estrangement, all of which deepen the moral problem. A religious Zionist individual told me that when his son was about to enlist in combat service, a Charedi colleague at work asked him how he allows his son to serve: “Surely it’s a matter of life and death, pikuach nefesh!” The statement is ludicrous to the point of ridicule, but it remains representative of the detachment underlying the Charedi attitude. The army is “their” issue—the state’s and not “ours.” For us, it might even be forbidden on the grounds of pikuach nefesh.

There are, of course, Charedi families who stress the duty of gratitude toward soldiers, but the inattention on the communal level and the tension surrounding the issue substantially weaken the instinct of deep gratitude we should all possess

Estrangement from the army threatens to undermine the minimal gratitude, hakaras hatov, we owe IDF soldiers. The Ramban (Devarim 23:5) explains that the rejection of Amonites from becoming part of the Jewish People is due to a flaw in this most basic virtue: showing gratitude (Avraham Avinu, the father of the Jewish People, saved Lot, the founding father of Amon). Our negligence in expressing gratitude to those who sacrifice for our benefit is thus no small matter. There are, of course, Charedi families who stress the duty of gratitude toward soldiers, but the inattention on the communal level and the tension surrounding the issue substantially weaken the instinct of deep gratitude we should all possess. It is clear that when it comes to the general Israeli public, the absence of appreciation and gratitude on our part only amplifies the sense of grievance.

Beyond this, the vacuum created by an approach of turning a blind eye does not remain empty. As Chazal teach (Shabbos 22a), if a pit is empty of water, it will inevitably contain snakes and scorpions. In our context, if there is no set approach to the army, chances are that the juattitude will turn dismissive, humiliating, and even hostile. The moniker of “the army of 7spiritual destruction”—the word shmad recalls the darkest of times—is albeit used mainly by extremist Charedi groups. Still, we no longer feel the instinctive revulsion the term ought to evoke. A Charedi person who calls soldiers “Nazis” will still get an Aliyah in shul or receive charitable donations for his child’s upcoming wedding; the demonization of soldiers, moreover (especially Charedi soldiers), has become an acceptable practice. Aside from the internal harm caused by these phenomena, they cause a tremendous chillul Hashem among those outside our community.


The Danger of an Ideological Vacuum

The inevitable result of ideological neglect is confusion. We can live with it for a time, but it will ultimately come back to bite us.

Given the size of Charedi society, the level of exposure, and the intensity of the political debate, the army question demands an answer today more than ever. It is raised internally when students approach a teacher or the mashgiach at a Yeshiva, at outreach-oriented seminars, or in general encounters with the broader public. In all cases, the response is often to deny all charges. Instead of dealing with the problem, an attempt is made to reduce it to a minimum, claim it doesn’t exist, or treat it as an optical illusion. Excuses for the avoidance of service made in this vein include “Charedi also serve in the IDF” (which is true; “Netzach Yehuda” is a Charedi battalion in the IDF), “the army doesn’t need Charedim,” “the army has plenty of paper-pushers who don’t risk their lives” and “the army isn’t run according to Daas Torah.”

But claims such as these are merely weak evasions of the real problem. We all know that Charedim, aside from small and very distinct groups, do not serve in the IDF. The question of the army’s needs is irrelevant to the moral question. The paper-pushers are part of the army system, contributing according to their skills and abilities, and cannot be compared to those outside of it. And, indeed, the army is naturally run by army people—it would be difficult to expect anything else. One could elaborate on each of these arguments at far greater length, but such claims are ultimately a smokescreen. They mask the issue rather than deal with it.

In 2006, MK Moshe Gafni noted that “it is far from clear that we need to continue with the mandatory draft into the IDF; we need to hire professional soldiers and compensate them accordingly.” Without debating the relative merits and shortfalls of draft armies versus volunteer armies, I believe that as a group that avoids army service it is hardly our place to be the vanguard of such change

Included in the same framework is the proposal to abolish the “people’s army” model and replace it with a “voluntary army” framework. In 2006, MK Moshe Gafni noted that “it is far from clear that we need to continue with the mandatory draft into the IDF; we need to hire professional soldiers and compensate them accordingly.” Without debating the relative merits and shortfalls of draft armies versus volunteer armies (for the time being, I do not think that a voluntary army is appropriate for Israel), I believe that as a group that avoids army service, it is hardly our place to be the vanguard of such change. If we aim to remove the stain of draft dodging, we should find other, more elegant ways of doing so.


Torah Study vs. Military Service

A more serious and significant argument, worthy of separate treatment, regards Torah study.

The original reason for the deferral of Yeshiva students’ army service was Torah study. To be more precise, Ben Gurion ordered their release from the obligatory draft to allow the rebuilding of the Torah world decimated in the Shoah, as documented in the Knesset record of 1958. Today, that “Torah world” is exponentially larger than it ever was in pre-WWII Europe, and the number of Torah students, may their number augment further, has skyrocketed beyond anything known to human history.

Today, instead of the original purpose of rebuilding the Torah world, Charedi apologetics must recruit creative argumentation to ground its position. One of the common arguments refers to the military significance of Torah study. To quote one Charedi author on the subject:

The Torah describes a reality in which a third of the population studies Torah, a third works, and a third serves in the military. This was the case for the army of King David. Just as the Home Front Command and Intelligence Corps, which serve alongside the combatant army, so too do we need the army of God that studies Torah in purity, providing the spiritual foundation of our survival. Today, Charedim are only 9% of the population, and we lack many soldiers in the army of God before we reach a third of the Jewish People. We also find the agreement of Zevulun and Yissaschar in the Torah, which demonstrates that God wishes the different parts of the Jewish People to be responsible for each other.[1]

This passage indicates just how perplexed we are when it comes to comparing Torah study to military service. Where does the Torah describe a reality of “a third of the population studying Torah”? Is there any documentation that this was the case in King David’s wars? What possible connection could the draft issue have to the “Yissaschar-Zevulun agreement”? And even if Midrashim hint at any of the above, did any of the great Torah luminaries of past generations think to implement such ideas in practice, as the author seeks to do? Anybody familiar with the paths of halacha knows that such argumentation is simply ludicrous.

Another popular quotation marshaled in this context is the Rambam at the end of Hilchos Shemittah and Yovel:

Not only the tribe of Levi, but any one of the inhabitants of the world whose spirit generously motivates him and he understands with his wisdom to set himself aside and stand before God to serve Him and minister to Him and to know God, proceeding justly as God made him, removing from his neck the yoke of the many reckonings which people seek, he is sanctified as holy of holies. God will be His portion and heritage forever and will provide what is sufficient for him in this world like He provides for the priests and the Levites. And thus David declared: “God is the lot of my portion; You are my cup, You support my lot.”[2]

Though a truly remarkable statement, the Rambam’s reference to “any inhabitant of the world” whose “spirit generously motivates him” cannot apply to an entire public chosen by birth. The Rambam refers to truly gifted and exceptional people who separate themselves from the world, devoting themselves to the spiritual and the holy while detaching from all things material. Is the Charedi public, exceptional individuals aside, detached from the material world in a manner befitting the Rambam’s definition? And can one be born into the definition while demanding that others do the work for us? Moreover, the Rambam, whose words are also Aggadah is their orientation (as the way of the Rambam in closing sets of laws), says nothing about military service. Once again, it seems that applying the statement to our reality is nothing but a smokescreen.

The simple truth needs to be said: military service and Torah study are not commensurable

How have we nevertheless adopted such views in our community? The answer is as noted above: When there is a vacuum, especially a vacuum of ideas, it will necessarily be filled with something. More often than not, that uncontrolled “something” will not be particularly complimentary. The simple truth must be spoken clearly: military service and Torah study are not commensurable. First, these activities are entirely different and quite incomparable: one is forced, a civic duty imposed by the state, while the other is voluntary, a personal or communal choice to learn in Yeshiva. Torah study can be engaged anywhere and everywhere; the Sages derive the constant duty of Torah study from Yehoshua, who studies Torah on the battlefield (Eruvin 63b). But beyond this, the essence and aim of these activities are utterly different: Military service is about facilitating Jewish self-determination by defending the State, while Torah study involves learning how to live—how does Jewish self-determination look?—and spreading God’s word throughout the world.

Military service allows us to live, while Torah study infuses life with purpose. These are two different things, and the apologetic effort to conflate them can only be harmful and confusing. Nonetheless, and without comparing the two, one of the legitimate justifications for refraining from military service (at least for some) is the concern for the continued flourishing of the Torah world.


Where to Draw the Line

As mentioned, the moral demand to share the burden of military service and protect the Jewish nation dwelling in Zion is simple. Halachically, the protection of our country’s borders falls under the rubric of a milchemes mitzvah, a war that constitutes a religious obligation. We are all part of it. Many decades ago, Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin zt”l already expressed wonder concerning a particular rabbinic proclamation on the matter of the draft, asking, “Why should Torah scholars be exempt from participating in a milchemes mitzvah of saving the Jewish People from its enemy who seeks to eradicate and destroy them, God forbid?”

On the other hand, there is also a simple obligation incumbent upon all of us to establish and ensure the continued success of Torah institutions and the emergence and growth of Torah scholars who will be a credit to their generation and fulfill the promise that “[Torah] will not be forgotten from his seed.” This duty applies to the entire Jewish People. The Torah is our national heritage; we are all responsible for its continued development and flourishing. If the army grants exemptions to excelling athletes, it should certainly do so for Torah students—those who maintain the supreme value of the Jewish People.

There is therefore an obligation to participate in military service, and there is an equal obligation to encourage and develop Torah study. How can we maintain both?

Thus, there is an obligation to participate in military service and a separate obligation to encourage and develop Torah study. How can we maintain both? The answer is that it is right and proper that Yeshiva students, those who fully invest their time and energy in Torah study, should be legitimately exempted from military service. Naturally, as Yeshivos continue to grow, the question of where the quantity line is drawn becomes critical. It does not have a simple answer. For some, hesder tracks have provided a working combination of Torah and army service, and Charedi hesder institutions are a recent and refreshing innovation. The precise formula remains to be thrashed out. Yet, the lack of clarity concerning boundaries need not mask the mutual obligation of participation in army service and the flourishing of Torah centers.

But this applies to those who are diligently occupied with Torah study. What of those who are not? Is there a reason why Charedi young men, even those without any Yeshiva framework, refrain from army service?


Those Outside the Yeshiva

I recently spoke with a Yeshiva student whom I invited to share a drive from Kiryat Sefer to Ramot, Jerusalem. As we talked, it turned out he was thinking about his future. Not finding satisfaction in his Yeshiva studies, he had already begun to work part-time in a clothing store and was considering his next steps. While discussing his plans, I brought up the army issue: “And what about army service?” He explained that this isn’t a problem: several friends combine employment with Yeshiva registration, thereby dodging the draft. “And what do you say about the moral question? If you’re not studying in Yeshiva, how are you any different than other Israelis your age?” After a few moments of silence, he responded: “The truth is, I never thought about it.”

In the past, it was clear that a young man not occupied in Torah study must enlist in the IDF. The Chazon Ish even stated, “Somebody who exploits the right of deferral of Yeshiva students is a rodef, and sins towards all Yeshiva students.”[3] Today, by contrast, things are altogether different. Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, in a lecture he delivered some time ago, stressed that any Yeshiva student, even if he studied only a time amount, should not enlist, lest he is harmed spiritually and religiously: “Our army is not like the army of King David! […] There is licentiousness, foul language. So how can you say such a thing?”[4]

Rabbi Yosef is partially right. A God-fearing Charedi young man who is diligent in Halacha but does not find his place in the study hall will have a hard time maintaining his level of religious practice in the army—certainly when his default placement will be a combat unit. The Netzach Yehuda organization does sterling work with Charedi soldiers in the IDF. Its involvement both during active service and with army veterans has assisted thousands of soldiers in maintaining and even augmenting their level of religious observance and connection with Hashem. Yet, the profile of Charedi soldiers entering the IDF is distant from the halachically fastidious Yeshiva student who has a hard time concentrating on his learning. For the latter, the army is not considered a viable option.

It is “their army” rather than “ours,” and we are therefore not overly concerned by the fact that the religious and spiritual level does not befit the Charedi individual

It seems that such difficulties, coupled with the “melting pot” narrative of the Israeli army—aside from the defense of Israel, Ben Gurion employed the IDF to mold the new Israeli Jew, detached in form and spirit from his European antecedent—and with the issue of close identification with the State of Israel, are the central justification for Charedi avoidance of the draft. Yet, the justification is weak. We are responsible, at least partially, for the fact that the army remains an inappropriate venue for our children. Our army is indeed not like King David’s, and we’re quite content to keep it that way so that the option of army service remains beyond the pale for the vast majority of Charedi society. It is “their army” rather than “ours,” and we are therefore not overly concerned that the religious and spiritual level does not befit the Charedi individual. “We” will continue to maintain the commitment to our way of life while “they” will continue serving in the IDF, and all will be well.

But this is a fallacy. Not all will be well. The spiritual condition of the army does not grant us an exemption from the moral requirement to serve, and our attitude of burying heads in the sand creates the moral problem of young men who take the protection of the IDF for granted while active service never crosses their minds. In all his years in Yeshiva, the duty of army service never occurred to the student in the passenger seat beside me. He had perhaps internalized some combination of the standard excuses common to Charedi society (as detailed above) and, more likely, never had occasion to think about the subject. Is this the “good and just” that Hashem expects of us?


At the outset, I mentioned Israel’s Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers. Perhaps this is a good place to conclude. Over the last five or so years, a new trend of Charedi ceremonies marking fallen soldiers has emerged, spearheaded by the Netzach Yehuda organization. Moreover, the Netzach Yehuda event is broadcast on Charedi (Internet) news outlets, a phenomenon that reflects changing sentiments on the Charedi street and also catalyzes greater awareness and a continued shift in attitudes. This grass-roots inspired change, alongside a popular project of reciting Tehillim for fallen shoulders, should be celebrated; but they remain only initial small steps.

The more we understand the moral imperative I have tried to emphasize, the more we will embark on projects and initiatives that can create a suitable environment in which we can serve, which can also bring the army closer to the national ideal we aspire to. Today, such initiatives remain few and far between, though the recent formation of Charedi Hesder Yeshivos and Mechinot programs is another step in the right direction. Far more remains to be done.

Religious Zionist society, after years of challenging experiences, established the army Yeshiva division to ensure their students maintain a high level of religion during their years of service. If, in the past, they would enter the army on a high religious level and left less impassioned, the challenging arena today is academia rather than the IDF. Though we cannot simply “copy-paste” from this to the Charedi situation—matters of identity, education, and the prevalent Charedi mindset are significant issues that must be taken into consideration—it is high time we began to think of our own solutions to the problem of the Charedi draft. The issue is thorny, but there’s no excuse for not trying.

Occasionally, there is room to justify the pay-no-attention approach; one need not always act. I believe this is not the case regarding Charedi army service. In this case, there is no room for indifference and for the hope that if we do nothing, it will all turn out alright. It won’t. We must take action, and the first step toward doing so is internalizing the moral imperative.


[1] David Blass, writing on the Hidabroot site:

[2] Rambam, Laws of Shemittah and Yovel, Chap. 13, no. 13.

[3] Quoted by Vaad Hayeshivot director Rabbi Asher Tanenbaum z”l, Erev Shabbat 11.12.87.

[4] Yeshay Cohen, “Even a Yeshiva Student Who is Not Diligent Must not Enlist” Kikar HaShabbat 9.7.18 (

12 thoughts on ““Shall Your Brothers Go to War?” — Internalizing the Army Imperative

  • Did you serve and can you tell us about your IDF service more? thanks

    • Since I grew up overseas, and only made Aliya in my mid-twenties and with children, I was never drafted. If you have a comment on the substance of the article – sounds like something is disturbing you – I am happy to discuss.

  • Let’s be honest. Most chareidim do not avoid the army in order to learn Torah, they learn Torah (if they actually learn at all) in order to avoid the army. Yet nowhere in the Torah is there even the slightest hint of support for learning as a full time vocation. Quite the opposite. The Torah commands us, in no less than the Aseret Hadibrot, to work six days a week. Keeping Shabbat without working the rest of the week is chilul Shabbat pure and simple. We make kiddush to separate Shabbat from the workday. If one doesn’t work his kiddush is a flat out bracha l’evatalah. Chazal worked. Rambam worked. Rashi worked. Rambam cautions us against making Torah our livelihood lest we end up embezzling the public (how prophetic). As for army service, no Israelite was even counted in the census if he was over 20 and did not serve in the army. Had there been a Lakewood or Mir in the Midbar, none of its avreichim, not ONE, would have been counted. But the worst of it is that very few young men are cut out for a life of learning. Even in Talmudic times it was ‘elef nichnas v’echad yotzei’. We would be lucky if that were the statistic today. As Ovadiah Yosef’s daughter said, most avreichim wander from window to window and from cigarette to cigarette. Thiss is a crime against them, a crime against the wife and children, a crime against society and a crime against those who serve, work and pay taxes. Above all it is a crime against Torah. Enough of the bluff.

  • I applaud your attempt to at least open the conversation. Aside from the fundamental issue, many assumptions need to be aggressively challenged. First, anyone who has read the beginning of the parsha of ki tetzai or David’s behavior that garnered strong condemnation from Natan cannot seriously try to assert this army as the most licentious of all time. With the rise of initiatives to prevent sexual abuse, this will likely only improve.

    Second, hareidi women ought be forced into forms of service that can be specially engineered with sensitivity to their needs.

    Third, a particularly annoying form of abuse are non-Israeli’s who live full-time in Israel, enjoy various social benefits, and do not register their children as Israelis to avoid the issue of conscription.

    thankfully, the new government will at least require hareidim to articulate positions with some elements of rationality. not a bad time to encourage this topic to be addressed without the previous mind-boggling positions.

    • Are you aware that Rambam did not start working until he was about 55 years old. |For the first part of his life he was supprted by his brother who was a merchant and who later died at sea. During that time, he wrote his perush on the mishnayos. Part of what enabled him to be that super human being that both worked and served as a talmid chacham was his time in learning while under support. People who want Haredim to work brush over this issue way to glibly. As someone who has worked full time for the last 18 years supporting my family, and learning in the morning and a t night, I can tyell you that my son who is in full tuime learning is far, far ahead of what I can accomplish in my part-time struggle to learn. Anyone who pretends otherwise is not serious enough about the vlaue of learning.

    • I find the entire discussion arrogant and self-aggrandizing. What gives you the right to decide what’s just? Same as you’re arrogant choices of what Covid-19 regulations to adhere to. The general public views your community (rightfully) as an uneducated brainwashed self-righteous parasitic primitive aberration in an otherwise exemplary progressive state of the art modern State.

    • Aaron Freedman, the subject of the article is the moral imperative of serving in the IDF, not going to work. It could be that the value of full time Torah Study for those capable of this, is sufficient to outweigh the moral duty, but it’s important to correctly frame the discussion. I would say that there’s also a moral imperative of going to work, but this doesn’t not mean that one must do so at the age of 18.

  • The issue is complex and requires great personal cheshbon hanefesh as to one’s purpose in life as opposed to only hashkafic perspectives because solely resorting to hashkafic points of view do not reflect the reality on the ground not every one should be learning full time or serving in the IDF. The Meshech Chachmah stressed that one understands and personfies mitzvos whch have no personal or practical application by studying the Torah sources of such areas such as Kodshim, Kohanim, etc. A basic sense of hakaras hatov rooted in what the IDF does and how one can be a Ben Torah in the IDF can be found in the excellent sefer of Rav Yosef Tzvi Rimon onthe subject.

  • As we come back to another Memorial day, I reread this article with a fresh perspective. I agree 100% about the moral imperative but remain uncertain and even skeptical about how this would be implemented practically because of the ever growing social division between Haredi and secular Israelis.

    The Shachar program showed us already years ago and continues to show that in the experiment of introducing Haredim to the army in its present social makeup, Haredim who are married can come in and out of service in tact spiritually, while unmarried Haredim have a spiritual improvement if they came in off the derech (not living as a Haredi) but a spiritual decline if they came in spiritually stronger. This is of course a grand generalization but perhaps useful for thinking about what is happening and what could happen when we do fulfill the moral imperative of service.

    One of the reasons that our society separates itself from the mainstream is that it gives us the autonomy we need to live our way of life. Those like myself who also live in mainstream society for work feel the pain of crossing the borders with the benefit of what the mainstream offers. The mainstream is currently not a neutral space–it is a secular space. To take a young man who has not had the chance to form himself completely is asking haredi society for a price it should not have to pay in exchange for fulfilling service. The Haredi community has many painful associations with their young men looking for a way out of haredi life via the army. There is not a theoretical history here but a very real one.

    I would add the secular society has also become more extreme over the last decades and this furthers the distance between us and the difficulty of bridging it. We used to be more the same, feel more vulnerable together and proud together in a brand new state, etc.

    To honestly address this issue would mean that secular society which rules the culture of the army by default would have to be prepared to give up that position to create a truly neutral space for all citizens. And I do not believe that Arabs should be exempted from that either. It is time for them to own their citizenship (again, those who are exempted automatically, not those who are serving already)

    Would appreciate another article from the author sharing more vision of how he sees this playing out —

  • Asron Dovid Friedman, I cannot imagine from where your knowledge of Rambam derives. First, Rambam’s first written work was on Aristotelian logic written when he was about 14. Second, his Peirush HaMishnayot was written in his early twenties. Third, his study of philosophy began before his teenage years. Fourth, he participated in his brother’s business.

    Instead of hagiography, read actual biographical information from Professors Twersky, Halbertal, Kraemer, etc.

    In any case, Rambam was a yachid bechol ha-dorot. To draw any conclusions from his life to others is absurd. He was explicitly against being supported to learn as he says explicitly in MT.

    If you need an example from the last century, read the Rav ztl’s semicha from Rav A. Shapiro ztl, the Devar Avraham of Kovna when the Rav was not yet 30 years old and the Halakhic Mind written about ten years later. (the book was first published 40 years later, a story for another day.)

    such individuals have existed very rarely.

  • It seems that because Torah study is the source of Mitzvot and our spiritual growth that some may conclude that it excludes or should preempt any other activity. This position, however, would seem to disregard the precept of Im Ein Derech Eretz, Ein Torah in Pirkei Avot and the apparent contradiction that “Torah Lo B’Shamayim”, and many Mitzvot address Olam HaZeh concerns like contract enforcement.

    If we posit, then, that there are other means to the end of Avodat HaShem in addition to Torah study alone (for example, giving one’s time to tzeddaka), then I think that military service is compatible not only with a Torah life generally but a Charedi life specifically. Moreover, Pirkei Avot does not teach that Derech Eretz is superior to Torah, only that Torah depends upon it. By extension, even though one would not gain a comparable level of Torah development while serving in the military, the point is that military service is a prerequisite (an indispensable one), among other prerequisites, for Torah study. Chazal enjoin us from relying upon miracles; HaShem punished us for our refusal to leave the bounty of the Ananei Kovod for the hard work of conquering Eretz Yisrael, and then supporting ourselves. We had to fight Amalek, even though HaShem had only recently before defeated the army of Mitzrayim.

    I respectfully would submit that one prerequisite of Torah study and Mitzvot observance is freedom from government interference in those activities. That, in turn, requires rule of law that enshrines individual rights under an independent judiciary – and a military that defends the State sovereignty in which those laws are enforced. I would further submit that, as long as a Jew can observe the Mitzvot in the military of that State, he has a moral obligation to do so.

  • R’ Pfeffer, while I agree with several of your points, I disagree strongly with the weighting that you give them. I can’t speak for all of Charedi society but I can speak for myself.
    For me, it begins (and possibly ends) with the fact that between a quarter and a third of Dati-Leumi go off the derech in the army. I am not willing to subject my children to such a risk. The army has proven time and again that it is not willing to accommodate the Charedi lifestyle. Apparently the desire to be a melting pot runs deeper in its veins than the need for manpower (if there indeed is such a need).
    Every time they break their promises in the special programs and in Hesder units – and there is no shortage of examples – it undermines the trust that would be necessary for a change to occur. Particularly now, when recent events have shown clearly that the secular camp very much do have an anti-religious agenda – they are not neutral – and they are the ones in control of the army.
    You do quote these concerns, but you are dismissive of them. I think if you would do a survey of mainstream charedim, you would find that these very practical concerns are front and centre. Many will argue with your statement that “The spiritual condition of the army does not grant us an exemption from the moral requirement to serve.” On the contrary – why would it not?
    For me and those like me to be comfortable sending our children to the army, we would need to be convinced that they have given up entirely on the melting pot idea. I’m afraid we are a long way from that. The army simply announcing that they are setting up yet another program and *this time* we’ll really respect your way of life – that won’t cut it any more, there is too much distrust.

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