Tzarich Iyun > “Seder Sheni”: Reflections > The Simchat Torah War > Charedi Army Service: A Matter of Jewish Belonging

Charedi Army Service: A Matter of Jewish Belonging

The demand for Charedi enlistment in the IDF falls predominantly on the shoulders of thousands of Charedim who are not engaged in full-time Torah study. Rabbinic leaders in the past have declared that their place is in the army, yet this instruction is long forgotten. Our shared story and identity calls us to renew the call.

Adar II 5784 / March 2024

The truth is that we had it coming. Rabbi Elazar Menachem Shach, the mythological leader who presided over Haredi society for the final three decades of the twentieth century, would repeatedly emphasize that those who are not full-time Torah students belong in the IDF. “The right given to yeshiva students of deferring their enlistment into the army,” he wrote in a letter from 1980 on behalf of Vaad Hayeshivos (the formal body responsible for liaising between the army and yeshiva institutions), “is contingent on his study being his sole occupation. He must not be engaged in any material pursuits, whether during yeshiva hours or outside of them.” Torah leaders made similar statements up to and including Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman (in 1983).

Anyone who “abuses this right,” wrote Rabbi Yechezkel Abramski a decade earlier, is considered a rodef (a “pursuer”) of those yeshiva students who study Torah diligently: the fact that non-Torah students receive deferrals undermines the foundation on which the exemptions stand. In this spirit, he instructed heads of yeshiva institutions “to conduct a strict vetting of students and remove from their ranks any student whose Torah is not his sole occupation.” Orchos Rabbeinu likewise cites the Steipler (Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky) as emphasizing that “those who are registered in yeshiva, allowing them exemption from the army even as they engage in gainful employment, are absolute rodfim.”

Charedi society fell into deep complacency; nobody went to the army. […] The old imperative of “those outside of full-time Torah study must go to the army” was all but forgotten.

Times have changed. Over four decades have passed since these last statements were declared; I have not found a more recent instance of a leading rabbi making a similar remark. Charedi society fell into deep complacency; nobody went to the army. New, “alternative” yeshiva institutions were established that allowed students to combine some Torah study alongside pursuing academic and vocational studies or working off the books. Fictional institutions, to our great shame, were established with the dual intention of receiving government stipends and evading army service. A large and extremist Charedim group known as the “Jerusalem faction” refused altogether to cooperate with the army. The old imperative of “those outside of full-time Torah study must go to the army” was all but forgotten.

Moreover, all this happened under the unwatchful eye of the State of Israel. “Why don’t Charedim serve in the IDF?” some ask ruefully, and add the reply. “Because they can.” Out of the belief that a small and technologically advanced army would secure Israel’s future, it was broadly assumed that the army wouldn’t need Charedim; it was far more important to focus on economic integration. “Let them work,” argued many in the Finance Ministry, “and their kids will eventually join the IDF.” For its part, the army made little attempt to recruit members of Charedi society. Integrating them into the IDF was a headache, not to mention the insurmountable political hurdles involved in any large-scale effort. Aside from the Supreme Court, the arrangement seemed mutually agreeable.

And the tree was happy. Until it wasn’t.

First came the judicial reform period, stalling plans for a new law entirely exempting Charedim from the draft. And then came October 7th, burying the proposed legislation and fulfilling the calamitous predictions made by Torah luminaries of previous generations. The fact that we do not enlist, all of us, regardless of how deeply we might be immersed in the sea of Torah, brings the wrath of Israeli society upon us, gives a bad name to all of Charedi society, and desecrates the Name of Heaven. It might still bring harsh decrees upon the yeshiva world. It is time for us to engage in damage limitation.


Pure Hatred?

Under the title “And I shall bite him like a donkey,” a Yated Naaman editorial responded to the demand for sharing the army burden with the age-old accusation of hatred of Torah scholars: “The hatred of amei ha’aretz for Torah scholars forever aspires to ‘bite him like a donkey.’” Yet, the truth should be told: the harsh feelings directed towards us in recent weeks are not the exclusive purview of amei ha’aretz (ignoramuses), and they often reflect deep frustration rather than hatred. It is sad and infuriating that instead of engaging in even minimal reflective thinking and internal discussion, Charedi journalists cling to traditional stereotypes and refuse to look at themselves in the mirror.

A few days ago, a rabbi who teaches at a national-religious yeshiva visited me accompanied by three thick volumes he had composed over a sabbatical year on the intricate topic of Talmudic resolution of dilemmas in monetary law. We discussed these matters for an hour or so, after which he told me about his son, who is also engaged in an in-depth Torah-study writing project. The son, he explained, had fought in the reserves over the past four months. Given the pressures of military service, he had chosen to focus on somewhat lighter subjects. While on reserve duty, he wrote in-depth treatises on the topics included in Rambam’s Sefer Ahava: recitation of the Shema, prayer, tefillin, tzitzit, blessings, and so on.

The son, he explained, had fought in the reserves over the past four months. Given the pressures of military service, he had chosen to focus on somewhat lighter subjects. While on reserve duty, he wrote in-depth treatises on the topics included in Rambam’s Sefer Ahava

My distinguished guest may have been unusual, but he is not unique. Many like him, upright Jews, among them prominent scholars, look at Charedi society with confusion and frustration: where is the brotherhood, partnership, and shared responsibility? They are not ignoramuses burning with an insatiable hatred of Torah scholars. After sacrificing so much on our behalf in the current war, their claims deserve to be heard.

Aside from the traditional claim of anti-Charedi hatred, the Yated Neeman editorial focused on the religious challenges of military service and the importance of Torah study. Yet, these responses lack sincerity. The conditions within the army today are immeasurably better than in the past, mainly due to the entry (and rise through the ranks) of strongly religious soldiers from Dati Leumi communities. The Netzach Yehuda battalion provides special services for Charedi soldiers, and its weaknesses are mainly related to the type of boys who join rather than structural army issues. Indeed, there remains much room for improvement, and a renewed focus on Charedi conscription should provoke an internal army reflection concerning progressive agendas that undermine trust in Charedi society. Yet, the most critical improvements depend on the entry of committed and serious Charedi soldiers. As for Torah study, let’s begin with an explicit declaration that anybody not engaged in full-time Torah study should recruit – for the sake of our defense and the Torah learners!

Are we ready for this? If not, it means a deeper issue than Yated Neeman wishes to concede is afoot.


A New Charedi Axis: Israeli Versus Non-Israeli

There are two customary ways to divide Charedi society in Israel. The conventional division involves three main sections: Lithuanians (or Litvish), Chassidim, and Sephardim – alongside the virulently anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli circles of the old Yishuv. A second division, formulated by Lee Cahaner in her 2020 book on “Ultra-Orthodox Society on the Axis Between Conservatism and Modernity,” divides Charedim along the axis of conservatism and modernity. Conservatism, in this sense, should be understood in a Haredi-religious context, which can be quite different from standard conservatism. For instance, in a conservative Charedi family (especially in the Lithuanian sector) the woman will be the main breadwinner, while the man will remain in full-time Torah study.

In my opinion, a third axis ought to be emphasized: not Lithuanian-Chassidic-Sephardi and not even conservative-modern, but Israeli versus non-Israeli. Some Charedim identify with Israel, while others see Jewish sovereignty as “exile among Jews.” When Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, Israel’s Sephardi Chief Rabbi, stated that “if they force us into the army, we’ll all move abroad […] we’ll all buy tickets,” he expressed a deep lack of identification with Israel. As many noted, such a statement was hardly appropriate for Israel’s Chief Rabbi, and he attempted to clarify his intention with later statements – but the sentiment remains clear. The lack of identification with Israel relates to a strongly parochial Charedi identity rather than a broader Jewish identity. Suppose my primary identity is Vizhnitz Chassid, Belz Chassid, or Litvish, rather than a primary identity of simply Jewish (or Jewish-observant) and a secondary identity of this of that Charedi group. In that case, I am unlikely to identify with Israel. Israel is the political representative of the Jewish People; it does not represent Vizhnitz, Belz, or any other Charedi group. It isn’t me.

Suppose my primary identity is Vizhnitz Chassid, Belz Chassid, or Litvish, rather than a primary identity of simply Jewish (or Jewish-observant) and a secondary identity of this of that Charedi group. In that case, I am unlikely to identify with Israel

Although there is some correlation between the different axes, this correlation is far from complete. Many Charedim will find themselves somewhere on the “modern” spectrum while still not identifying with Israel, while others will identify with Israel while remaining distant from its “modern” elements – secular values and culture. In terms of numbers, a survey committed in 2013 found that 20% of Charedi Jews identified as Charedi-Israel, while 53% said that “on Memorial Day (for fallen soldiers) I feel a part of the Israeli public.” Interestingly, although some correlation was found between identification with Israel and the conservative-modern axis, on the last question, the percentage of those who strongly disagreed was greater among the “modern” group than among the “conservative” group. While “identification” with Israel was weak, it is noteworthy that over 70% of Charedi respondents said they felt proud to be Israel. It is a complex matter.

On the matter of Charedi service in the IDF, and the more general issue of Charedi responsibility for the Jewish state as the political representative of the Jewish people, the Israeli-non-Israeli axis is central. When you approach a Jew living abroad and ask him why he doesn’t enlist in the IDF, he will probably respond with some bewilderment. Though part of the Jewish people, he is not completely identified with the war. He might even lend financial or other support, but enlisting won’t enter his mind. It’s Israel’s war, and he’s an American.

The non-Israeli Charedi is not dissimilar. Of course, he fervently hopes for Israel’s speedy victory in battle and will lend his prayers for the campaign as part of “our brothers, all the house of Israel, who are in trouble and captivity.” Yet, at the end of the day, he resides in the “Charedi autonomy.” He belongs to a distinct story and identity that doesn’t correspond, at least far from fully, with the story of the Zionist entity. When we approach him and ask why he doesn’t enlist, his answer, if he’s honest, will be akin to the American Jew. Why should I enlist? – I’m Charedi!

Cultural isolationism must not create alienation from our shared story with our fellow brethren living in the Holy Land. Participation in the army is one crucial element of this belonging.

This is the crux of the matter: We don’t enlist because we’re Charedi. The other explanations—the value of Torah study, the defense that the Torah provides, and fear of the army’s secularizing influence—are excuses that hide, convincingly or otherwise, the main point that emerges from between the lines of Charedi apologetics: we don’t enlist because we don’t. It isn’t our story.

Today, it is high time we changed tunes. The new response to the demand for enlistment needs to state, first and foremost to ourselves, that this is our story. On the one hand, it is crucial to maintain and even strengthen our isolation from secular values and culture. This isolation has weakened in the digital age and requires rethinking. On the other hand, this cultural isolationism must not create alienation from our shared story with our fellow brethren living in the Holy Land. Participation in the army is one crucial element of this belonging.


Purim and Jewish Identity

The question, “What is our story,” is a matter of identity, which receives a profound expression in the Book of Esther – the book of the Jewish people in exile. Haman, who seeks to destroy the Jewish people, explains his plot to King Ahasuerus in terms of identity and belonging: “There is a certain people, scattered and dispersed among the nations in all the provinces of your realm. Their laws are different from every other people’s, and they do not observe the king’s laws; therefore, it is not worthy for the king to tolerate them” (Esther 3:8). As the Gemara emphasizes, these words are far from empty lies. While slanderous and evil, Haman’s lashon hara was profound and sophisticated (Megillah 13:2). It defines the “Jewish problem” discussed in every generation since.

The Jewish question that Haman raised is the question of belonging. We know it well. A Jew living in exile cannot fully belong to the story of his host country; such total belonging would undermine his very Jewishness. Reform Jews (Neologs) and Charedi Jews alike attempted to attest before the local authorities that they were simply Hungarian Jews, no different from other denominations and religions in the country. You can be “Hungarian of the religion of Moses” just as “Hungarian of the religion of Jesus.” Yet, as Rabbi Moshe Shmuel Glazner called out in his 1920 seminal article (“Zionism in Light of Faith”), everybody knows this isn’t true. A Jew cannot be fully Hungarian; his Judaism and his being Hungarian are conflicting identities. This problem, which is making a contemporary comeback even in regions where we thought it had been resolved, accompanies Diaspora Jewry to this day. Haman knew it well.

The eternity of the Jewish people we celebrate on Purim involves two elements. One is God’s guardianship over us, which is present even in concealment. The Megillah does not mention Hashem, even in the context of fasts, pleas, and the enactment of Purim that were surely related to Him – yet His guidance was present within the concealment. The second is the courageous choice by key figures to remain loyal to the Jewish people. This was most prominent in Esther, after whom the Megillah is named. As queen of Persia, she certainly had the option “to escape in the king’s palace from among all the Jews.” It stands to reason that the decree would not have reached her. Despite this, she chose to dedicate herself to her people and identity. She chose Mordechai – Mordechai the Jew. It is this choice, alongside the Divine providence that empowered it, that we celebrate on Purim.

The intensification of internal Charedi identities to the point of total exclusion of the broader Jewish identity, as though this was a Megillat Esther case of Jewish versus Persian identity, denies us the privilege of taking responsibility for the Jewish story unfolding before us

And behold, the question of Jewish identity has returned to us in the altogether new context of the State of Israel. It has returned, predominantly outside of Israel, concerning the question of supporting the Jewish state in its hour of need. And it has returned in the matter of Charedi service in the IDF. “As a young thirty-year-old, I was invited to a kibbutz of the Hashomer Hatzair movement,” retold Rabbi Tzvi Friedman (of the extremist Jerusalem Faction) in a recent meeting with representatives of the “Brothers in Arms” organization. “I told them this: Karl Marx said that the division of humanity into nations is backward. There are only classes. I said that we share the same belief. Judaism is a religious association. It is not a nation at all. Everybody understood that.” Speaking on behalf of many who espouse his position, Rabbi Friedman’s denial of the national dimension of the Jewish people is a by-product of isolationism that has evolved into alienation. The legitimate fear of secularization has led to the a priori determination that we have not part in the great story of the return of Jews to their homeland. In other words, the story of Israel is not a “Jewish story” because Judaism is a religion and not a nation. And then Israel demands that Charedim serve in the IDF?!

We can understand the fear on which Rabbi Friedman’s approach is founded. Yet, fear must not lead us to the delusional denial of a reality that has emerged before our very eyes: the great story of the return of Jews to their homeland. Of course, this is a Jewish story, and of course, it is our story – all of us. The intensification of internal Charedi identities to the point of total exclusion of the broader Jewish identity, as though this was a Megillat Esther case of Jewish versus Persian identity, denies us the privilege of taking responsibility for the Jewish story unfolding before us. We must espouse the very opposite approach: like Esther in the royal palace, we are called to take our part in the Jewish national story out of recognition of a deep shared identity. After decades of intra-Charedi growth and reinforcement, consolidation, and institutionalization, it is up to us.

“And who knows whether it was just for such a time as this that you rose to royalty!”


The Shared Story

A previous article published on Tzarich Iyun received the following response. The respondent added a request that her words be passed on, and I decided to copy them here:

I am an observant woman, and my husband is in the reserves. My husband did not have to enlist. His division was disbanded last year, and he will soon be forty. But in Simchat Torah, he realized that there was no way he could continue normal life, even as the Jewish people faced mortal danger. He fought to return to the army and has now been in the reserves for several months.

All this took place with my full encouragement, notwithstanding the hardship involving daily function with the children, the home, work, and so on. We understood that this was the call of the hour.

I read an opinion here that someone wrote, stating that we enlist in the army to be loved by others. I am ashamed of the respondent. We don’t enlist to be liked or disliked. We are not enlisting for the sake of the state. We do so because Jews are in danger. Simple. “You may not stand upon your fellow’s blood.”

I believe that there is a certain percentage of Charedi Jews who should continue to study Torah and not enlist. But only a certain percentage—those who “die in the tent of Torah.” This is our division of Torah scholars. But everyone else? [… They] are at least 50% of the Charedim and should enlist.

We need you!! Our soldiers are tired and worn out, and we still have a long way to go. My husband’s battalion commander told his troops that we were now fighting on nine fronts simultaneously. If you say that the lifestyle is unsuitable for Charedim, solutions can be found. Would it occur to anyone to give up another Mitzvah just because it’s hard to find a solution?

This is the most essential commandment right now. It is a milchemet mitzvah.

We have the tremendous merit to be partners in saving lives, and we are fighting for the glory of Hashem in the world. I suggest that everyone face himself and ask what Hashem really wants from them now. And may these words that draw from the depth of my heart also enter the heart.

The plea moved me. It does not demand absolute equality. It respects Torah students and is ready to exempt them from conscription. It does not ooze hatred and contempt and is formulated with respect and even sympathy. The author asks one thing: those not engaged in full-time Torah study should enlist. And so we must do. Because it is about protecting the Jewish people; because it will save us from a terrible moral stain, from desecrating the Name of Hashem, and from potential decrees against Torah institutions; and because it is an opportunity to exert a singular influence on the country and this should be our finest hour. Because we share common identities and a shared story, and it’s time we took responsibility for it.

Because it’s that simple.

21 thoughts on “Charedi Army Service: A Matter of Jewish Belonging

  • Yasher Koach on a superb article that is extremely appropriate for Erev Purim and the ongoing rethinking of views that has been ongoing since 10/7. I always have felt that army service requires an individual Cheshbon HaNefesh as to where one will accomplish the most in Avodas HaShem-the IDF or the Beis Medrash. It is becoming all too clear that despite all of the evidence of Chizuk and Chesed in the Charedi world that there are far too many within that world who have a disconnect from the State of Israel, and its ongoig existential battle against Hamas who offer no excuse whatsoever for their perspective. That view requires a deep reexamination if we are to feel Bachdus as required on Purim

    • The recent decision by the HCJ and tgd vocal push back of certain Charedi RY illustrates the need for social change and reevaluation of long held positions from within as opposed to the same being imposed by legal fiat or any discussion of the issue being viewed as Yhareg Val Yaavor

  • were is the source for the quotes from rav shach the steipler and rav abramsky

  • If the position of past Gedolim as posted here is now forgotten or rationalized away, this fact appears to undermine the whole current understanding of Daas Torah. Are the alleged followers out only for themselves?

  • Well done

  • Many Charedim point out that secular Israelis don’t come to the Charedi conscription debate with clean hands–certainly in the early years of the state, and maybe still today, some chilonim viewed Army service as a backdoor way to secularize the charedim. This was/is obviously wrong, and Charedim are right to be wary of it.

    R’ Pfeffer points out htat the Charedim don’t come to the debate with clean hands either. As he notes, the Army has created units like Netzach Yehuda that really do meet everything the Charedim demanded (gender separation, mehadrin food, time for learning, Shabbat sensitivity, etc). Yet mainstream Charedim–even those not learning fulltime–have essentially boycotted it out of convenience. The Charedi boycott of Netzach Yehuda is so complete that it has become its own justification for not sending boys to serve in it. (Because all the soliders serving in it are perceived to be not fully on-the-derech, Charedi parents say that their sons won’t have Charedi peers.)

    Since creating a Charedi-friendly infantry unit and asking the Charedim nicely to serve has been met with a collective shrug, the request needs to get a little less nice. There should be severe financial sanctions for able-bodied men who don’t serve in some capacity, excepting only a few hundred exceptional students capable of studying at a high level for roughly 100 hours a week. Only the loss of funds for the status quo is likely to bring the Charedim to the table for a serious counter-offer to what the IDF has already offered them.

  • can someone please post were are the sources for the quotes from rav shach, steipler, rav abramsky and Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman and other Torah leaders who made similar statements

  • thank you

  • I believe that a few thousand exemptions for the top students learning in Yeshivot and universities is appropriate. In universities normal procedures would allow those students to be fairly, albeit not precisely, identified. Given the rampant nepotism in Yeshivot, a fair method would be harder to devise.

    Those learning full-time except for those metzuyanim, ought serve.

  • Looking through the four written sources that you cited ie Rav Shach, Rav Steinman, The Steipler and Rav Abramski, it seems very clear that their primary and maybe only concern was that the Ishur exempting bnei yeshivos should not be abused by Charedim that do not serve in the army.

    But this does not equate at all to being supportive of any charedim at all joining the army if there were concerns about them being negatively spiritually affected.

    It just means that they because were vehemently against jeopardising the exemption for true lomdei Torah especially by fraudulent means.


    • Could it also be a fair reading of the letters that so done who was not developing in his learning was wasting his time there and would be more productive serving in the IDF snd supporting his family ?

    • Whatever the precise motivation was, it’s clear that the concern for the Torah world was enough to ensure that those who are not learning go to the army – and this in a time period when the army was far more secular than today and its educational ethos more radical (though to be fair, progressive agendas have crept in today that must be dealt with). The concern for boys’ “spiritual level” is important, but we do many things that raise concern for our “spiritual level” – we go to university, we move to less frum neighborhoods, we go to work, we have Internet connections. We do all these with rabbinic blessing, because of need, and we navigate the situations by limiting the potential influence (frum colleges, Internet filters, etc.) and by educating our children and ourselves that these are opportunities for Kiddush Hashem. The same should be true of the IDF. The need, I think, is clearer than it ever was.

  • @Yaakobv then by all means, let’s have a conversation about that. But it being a non-starter because every Chareidi is “in yeshiva” is beyond absurd and flies in the face of the advice of the gedolim that the Chareidi community pretends to emulate. They’ve weaponized Torah learning to avoid responsibility.

  • As with the removal of Jewish communities from Gaza, it is less the idea that needs to be debated at this hour, but much more vison is needed about the wide ranging impact inside the community of such a decision. It is not enough to say it is time and we need to be idealistic. As a Haredi parent, I am thinking about what a forced draft would mean for shidduchim, acceptance of siblings into cheder, you name it, a whole world of social impact that could follow a young man and his whole family entering the idf under this new order. For the dati leumi and chilonim who look and say pay the price like us, they need to understand that their societies make idf a source of pride and esteem and it creates opportunity for them. That at least at present, is far from the case in Haredi society. You can choose to blame Haredi society for that but the bottom line is that the results will be discovered afterwards and the price will be unequal.

    • This is a fair point, but sociology isn’t everything. Leaving aside the “forced draft,” I think HKBH expects us to factor in Torah values, too, such as the fact that this is a Milchemes Mitzvah (there’s a decent consensus on this, as Rav Elyashiv ruled decades ago concerning a far less threatning situation), basic Torah morality (“Shall your brothers go to war and you shall dwell here?”), and responsibility for the nation. Once enough people answer the call to duty (or, alternatively yet less plausibly, once Rabbinic leaders echo it) the social cost will also plummet. Even today, given the sociological changes that Charedi society is undergoing, there are plenty of “new” institutions to send to and plenty of families among which to find Shidduchim. Are these institutions as robust as old ones? Perhaps not yet, but they will be, and they already have their advantages.

  • Jonathan Rosenblum reported a direct quote from Rav Shach on the subject in “Confessions of a Haredi Dad,” a 1998 Jerusalem Post article:

    “For haredi boys who cannot or do not wish to learn full-time in yeshiva, a suitable framework must be found within the army or national service. And those who have completed their years of full-time learning should do basic training and reserve duty like everyone else. (So Rabbi Eliezer Schach explicitly told me.)”

  • Dear Rabbi Pfeffer

    I enjoy your articles, and the thought provoking, sensible and gentler approach you adopt.

    The idea that those who do not learn full time should serve in some capacity makes a lot of sense, particularly the many options that now exist to facilitate a strict adherence to Halocha.
    I don’t agree with the specific inference you make from Rav Shach and others’ writings, they are not Rishonim that you can make such an inference that they are therefore instructing non full time learners to go to the army – but the point is nevertheless understood and well made.
    I do have two points which I think are important, well known, but still always worth repeating.

    1) Charedim are joining the army in many different capacities. Not a flood gate, but certainly more than a trickle. The army and state would be best placed expanding these opportunities quietly, and before long thousands will join in different ages and capacities. The moment it becomes front page struggles, and court battles, is the moment we take a five year backwards step to entrenched ideas on both sides.

    2) The army and the state survives on the lomdei Torah in all sectors. You and I know this, as do many even secular Israelis. Our people’s survival is so incredibly miraculous, even the attacks on Simchas Torah highlighted to the sad extreme this fact, on many many difficult levels. I therefore understand why the Gedolei Yisroel will not budge on this issue, even if it means a bitter struggle, with all sorts of sacrifices and unfortunate hatred.

    Its a battle for everyone’s survival. Even if the pro-drafters don’t realise it, they are attempting to cut off their own oxygen supply. Its just a shame that this is happening, as it could all be avoided (as per point 1), with far better results from both a military and achdus perspective.

    Plus ça change

    • Thank you, A Rose, and to your points:

      1. Charedim are not joining the IDF. That’s the problem. To be more precise, not enough. In fact, very few. I know about this fairly well, having served on the board of Netzach Yehuda for close to a decade, and being involved in multiple projects to allow Charedim to join the army. Netzach Yehuda remains the only significant option for Charedi boys to serve in combat duty, and it represent a specific profile – not your regular Charedi boys. Other projects that involve computers etc. are boutique by definition, and boys join them (mainly) for personal gain. When the army reserves these slots for Charedim, a kind of “affirmative action,” it comes at the expense of others who might be better suited for them yet won’t be able to fill them. At any rate, the numbers are woefully low, and we need boys in the army, combat duty, urgently.

      2. The State might survive on Torah study, but it won’t survive on Torah study alone, and there are wonderful means of combining Torah study with army service. More to the point, how much Torah study? Everybody? Do we need the Torah study of boys who are wasting their time and don’t study Torah? Ultimately, the big question is “what will happen when Charedim run the country?” Of course, we’ve been evading that question with the answer, “We’ll pass that hurdle when we reach it.” Trouble is, the hurdle is already here, and it keeps getting higher.

      Plus ça change, perhaps, but it won’t be “la meme chose” forever. It simply can’t be.

  • 1 Having read extensively I am amazed at the comments of choshuve rabbonim who say that in effect their torah will protect / save the country and they do not need to serve in an army which now, in desperation needs them. Ignore eyn somchim al haness If their Torah is so good then why did 7 October happen ? Perhaps their Torah is not as good as they imagine or perhaps they are incorrect in their beeifs ? Can anyone honestly say that my learning deserves X, Y or Z ? And if so on what concrete (not theoretical) basis ?

    2 What I find shocking is that for 75 years the non-religious paid taxes and served in the army for decades at risk of life and limb allowing people whose beliefs they ostensibly do not share, to sit and learn. Where is the hakoras hatov ?

    3 As far as I know Joshua, Kings Saul and David, the Hashmonayim, Bar Kochba who was adulated by Rabbi Akiva etc, all went out to fight. None of them said ” My Torah will protect us. ”
    Are these rabbonim greater than all these ? If yes then on what evidence is that declared ? If not then what potur is there ?

  • Thank you for your response re the views of Gdolim and military service

    Anyone who wants to learn what the Torah the MIshnah, Gemara Rishonim and Acharonim say about Milchama should learn the special Sefer entitled Milchama Lor HaHalacha that was recently published by the Encycopledia Talmudit . Articles in the OU Pesach guide about Kashrus in the IDF and in the Mizrachi magazine about basic training in a Charedi Nachal unit are must reads for anyone interested in these issues.

    My fervent Tefilah is that the Charedi world will realize that it’s enormous commitment to Limud HaTorah can help it overcome a lack of self confidence in its ability to function in the outside world other than to lobby for funds for its mosdos and provide very fine and dedicated soldiers . The bottom line is that Hamas like all of the existential enemies of Klal Yisrael makes no difference between the residents of the Gaza envelope and Charedi communities in its desire to render Eretz Yisrael Judenrein

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