Volume 16 Number 72
                       Produced: Mon Nov 21 23:34:02 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Haredim and the Army - Part 1
         [Jeremy Nussbaum]
Haredim and the Army - Part 2
         [Shaul Wallach]


From: <jeremy@...> (Jeremy Nussbaum)
Date: Mon, 21 Nov 94 10:14:42 EST
Subject: Re: Haredim and the Army - Part 1

> >From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>
> ...
>     Thirdly, I kindly advise people to reread what I posted recently
> about "selective" quotations. I have not studied Ha-Rav Kook ZS"L in
> depth and cannot possibly know everything that he wrote about the
> Zionist program in rebuilding Erez Yisrael. To the best of my knowledge,
> the letter of his that I am posting is all that he wrote about military
> service for yeshiva students anywhere or anytime. I do know that Rav
> Kook did support the Zionist movement, but have yet to see any evidence
> that this means that he supported army service for yeshiva students in
> the Zionist army. So if anyone has any concrete evidence to bear on this
> specific point, I will be more than grateful.
>     So I will tentatively hold to my opinion that Rav Kook would still
> support full exemptions for yeshiva students today. Yes, I know that his
> his son R. Zvi Yehuda ZS"L objected strongly to Haredi reliance on his
> father's letter from back during World War I. But I still think it was
> worded in such general terms to have universal application, as I discuss
> in a separate posting. Here I will only add what I found in a Ph.D.

I commend Shaul's highly readable postings in general, whether or not
I agree with all opinions presented.  I take issue with the notion
that "what I don't know can't hurt me," so I can quote a single
document of a scholar's writings and not worry about anything else
that he wrote.  I fully admit my total ignorance about the writings of
Rav Kook, and perhaps he did support exemptions for all (serious?)
Yeshivah students for his entire life, and perhaps not.  It seems to
me that either a qualification such as, "in this document Rav Kook
supports ..." is appropriate, or else a reasoned opinion from someone
well versed in Rav Kook's writings stating something on the order of
"Rav Kook did indeed support ...," or "Rav Kook at one time supported
.... but in later writings seemed to ..."

In either case, I wonder if his support for exemption is for students
who are exceptional in their study, or for students simply diligent
in their study.  In other words, is the exemption for the contribution
they make to the Jewish community by their study, or is it for
their own personal growth in Torah study?

>     As to the numbers of exemptions, I would like to put them in proper
> perspective. Of a Jewish population of 4.4 million today, the number of
> men of military age might be put very roughly at 1 million or probably
> more than that. The last figure I heard quoted giving the number of
> Haredi yeshiva students was 22,000, or only 2% of the draft age
> population. Even if it were double this, I hardly think that it would
> mean a significant loss of manpower to the army. And I have heard of
> older Haredim who have wanted to serve (in order to get the social
> security benefits) but were rejected because of a lack of need for them.
> A year or so ago, as part of my reserve service as an office clerk, I
> made out nearly 120 release notices in a single day, as part of a move
> to cut back the number of soldiers in our civil defense unit by about
> 30%. So before pressing charges that Haredim unjustly avoid the army,
> let us first be sure that the army really needs them.

This is not a relevant argument.  If nothing else, it is the intention
here that counts.  E.g., when one is part of a family, it is important
for all members to take part in household chores, even though even
one person is technically sufficifient to do them.

>     Finally, as painful as the subject is, I find the complaint about
> Haredim sitting at home while others take the risks somewhat lacking in
> force. First, let us not forget the many civilian casualites, including
> Haredim, that we have suffered. Recent events are a sober reminder that
> no one is safe anywhere, Rahmana Lizlan. Secondly, as Rav Kook wrote in
> his letter, we believe that the Torah we learn does its part in helping
> us defend ourselves against our enemies. The great prayer gathering at
> the Western Wall this past year of Jews from all persuasions is further
> evidence that Haredim, too, are sensitive to the sufferings of our
> fellow Jews. As an example from the past of this kind of moral
> encouragement, may I kindly refer people to Dov Joseph in his book
> "The Faithful City: The Siege of Jerusalem, 1948" (Hogarth Press,
> London, 1962), where on p. 158 he tells about the recognition the
> "free-thinkers" gave the "ultra-religious" for praying in the synagogues
> while the former went out to do the fighting.

It is one thing for a part of the chareidi community, especially the
particularly capabable, to spend their time studying Torah.  It is
another to claim that by virtue of being part of the chareidi
community, one is not obligated to take part in the defence of Jews.
When faced by immediate danger, we do not find that Ya'acov spent all
of his time studying and praying.  Bedieved, when one has not prepared
for fighting, praying may be praisworthy and inspiring.  However,
consciously avoiding the preparations necessary to take part in one's
own self defence and relying on prayer seems to me to be at best
less praiseworthy.

Jeremy Nussbaum (<jeremy@...>)


From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>
Date: Sun, 20 Nov 94 20:40:49 IST
Subject: Haredim and the Army - Part 2

     The following is a literal translation of the letter by Rabbi
Abraham Yitshaq Ha-Cohen Kook Ztz"l on the issue of army service for
yeshiva students. The letter was sent on 20 Adar 5677 (1917) to
Chief Rabbi Dr. Joseph Hertz Ztz"l and appears in "Iggerot Ha-Raya"
(Mossad Harav Kook, Jerusalem, 1965), Vol. 3, pp. 88-92. Part 3
follows with a discussion of the circumstances surrounding the letter
and the scope of its applicability in Israel today.



           (To the Chief Rabbi in England, Dr. Joseph Hertz)

B"H, 20 Adar 5677

The pains of the time, which heavily distress our people and our Torah
in a very terrible measure, are what force me to write to His Reverent
Honor these words.

  On the situation of the yeshiva students, which is shaking now, due
to the doubt whether there rights will stand in this time of trouble,
shakes also the spiritual situation of the whole of Jewry in this
land, and on us rests the holy duty to try our strength in saving our
spiritual treasure, the light of our life and breath of the soul of our
nostrils, the position of our holy Torah in the state, to make all the
attempts which come into our hands. We shall not retreat out of any
fear, into fire we shall walk and we shall not be burned. Our purpose is
clear to us and it is one: to save the soul of Jewry in this kingdom,
which in many threads depends on the several yeshivot.  And the matter
is clear that in negation of the rights of the freedom of the yeshiva
students from army service now, the yeshivot collapse, which in great
toil and devotion were founded, to fall without any recovery, Heaven
forbid. Therefore this is my request and my demand from His Reverent
Honor, may he please recognize the great responsibility that is in his
great office, and may he know that now the hour has arrived that he take
the right step to save what is dearer to us than life. May he not
retreat backwards and may he not fear, as one who stands at the head of
the whole of Jewry of the kingdom before the government; upon him it is
to demand magnanimously the rights which we justly deserve according to
the just laws of its political regime. Equality of rights for all the
religions is written proudly on its flag, and upon this principle we
support our demand. The government must be careful not to touch the
spiritual threads of any religion or faith, and as for us, according to
our religious conviction, the ruin of the yeshivot, which will sprout
from the taking of their choice students to army service, is for us a
dreadful and terrible religious ruin. Different is the nature of our
holy religion with regard to the duty of enquiry of the Torah from the
nature of the Christian religions in particular; and whereas the
religious training stands with them mainly just as something which
prepares for clericalism, as preparation for the priesthood, the clergy;
and for many days and long periods prevailed among them the opinion,
whose flavor has not disappeared completely even in recent days, that
a lay person, who is not a religious priest or destined to be trained
for such a purpose, it is proper that he have no business with religious
books; it is the opposite with us, as the foremost of all duties for
each man of Israel, small as great, rabbi as homeowner, trader as
professional, is study of the Torah. The yeshivot were not founded at
their beginning only for the purpose of producing rabbis for us; the
yeshivot in Israel were always and are sanctuaries of Torah, whose duty
is ours, a duty of the Torah, not to let them become lacking from us in
any state, and just as no enlightened government would dare decree on
us to raze our synagogues, to burn out Torah scrolls, neither can it
place a on us of razing our yeshivot. In the law of equality of rights
of the religions it is naturally self-understood that the rights will
be given to each religion according to its demands, and if the days
of the festival of one religion are few and of another religion are
many, the government cannot force the members of the religion whose
festival days are many, to be satisfied with the same small number of
festival days of the other religion, since for the members of the
religion whose festival days are many, is this not a religious
destruction and an insult of the holy, as the enlightened government
knows how to raise its good ethic above such a humiliation? And it is
self-understood that the right of our yeshivot in regard to the freedom
of their students from army service, so that they not be idle from their
studies, cannot stand in the same degree with all the other religions.
And while for the Christians, cancelling religious study is only the
lack of training of religious priests, which is a lack that is possible
to be made up at any time, for us this deficiency is one which cannot be
counted. Study of the Torah is greater than offering daily offerings
(Megilla 3a) and the most lofty service of the holy. And when the
government suspends our yeshivot, it is as if it decrees apostasy on us.
Rabbi Aqiva's self-sacrifice was mainly over the decree that Israel not
occupy themselves with the Torah (Berakhot 61b), even though then also
the whole masses did not all occupy themselves with the Torah. But it is
a law for Israel, that the most holy duty, which keeps its spiritual
life from a cruel death, is that there be found in its cities and states
a marked portion devoted to study of the Torah, that no political
compulsion be able to remove from us this holy duty. And when our
fathers were standing in the boldest military scene, in the conquest of
the Land, the rebuke was told to Joshua because he made the yeshiva idle
for one day, and the commander of the Lord's host told him on "now I
have come", "because you cancelled study of the Torah" (Megilla 3a).

  Therefore, this is my demand and the demand of the whole of faithful
Jewry, all the rabbis and all those fearing G-d as thinking of His Name
who are faithful with all their heart to our people and our Torah, that
His Reverent Honor present this demand in all its force without any
cowardice before the government, to maintain the exemption for our
yeshiva students as it was already given, without paying attention
to the status which will be observed with religious divinity students
among the members of the other religions in the kingdom. And if he does
as such, he will be clean from the Lord and from Israel, and my prayer
is that the Lord's desire will succeed in his hand, and that he will
obtain the exemption of our yeshivot with G-d's help, in order that
the fountain not be cut off which gives us strength and life, and the
tree not be cut down which from it we find the fruit of the life of
our soul - Torah study in daily diligence in our several yeshivot
which are in this state.

  And the matter is clear to me, that His Reverent Honor will find a way
to explain to the government, how its military damage is very small from
the exemption of the students of the several yeshivot found in the land,
and in comparison to this the religious ruin and insult to the feelings
toward the holy which Jewry feels here from this injury, is very, very
deep and painful, and the wound is an eternal wound which will refuse to
be healed.

  The words have become somewhat many for me, and I hope that I am
speaking to an attentive hear. May His Reverent Honor please appreciate
these words according to their worth, and please be quick to fulfill
in all vigor his holy duty. We must do our duty, and the good Lord Who
girds Israel with power, may He encourage us for the honor of His Name,
and may the Lord's desire succeed in our hands.

  And in this I am his friend in vigor, seeking the peace of His
Reverence in feelings of honor and faithful blessing, waiting for his

                                    Ha-Q' Abraham Yitshaq Ha-Cohen Kook

   To this letter was added and accompanied a clarifying memorandum,
   as follows:

The high government, which takes consideration, as is fitting for an
enlightened kingdom, with the sensitive feelings of its inhabitants
and is most careful not to harm the holy and ideal content of religion
and faith, must know, that according to the Torah of Israel, Talmidei
Hakhamim are forbidden to be forced to go to war. And the sin of
forcing Talmidei Hakhamim to war is so great, that Haza"l did not
refrain from criticizing that act of the righteous Asa, king of Judah,
and said that he was punished, that he became ill in his legs (Kings I
15:23), because he made a draft of Talmidei Hakhamim (Sota 10b), as it
is said (ibid. v. 22) "And the king made all Judah hear, none was clean,
and he raised the stones of Ramah", and they explained "none was clean",
that he called even Talmidei Hakhamim to this work, which was needed
for him to strengthen the cities of his country in his war with Ba`asha.
And more than this, we see the magnitude of the prohibition of making
a draft of Talmidei Hakhamim to force them to go out to war, even in a
very great milhemet mitswah, for there is no greater milhemet mitswah
than the war which Abraham waged against the kings, and he was approved
from Heaven, until Haza"l taught us in their tradition that on this it
was said, "He shall out his sword as dust, his bow as chaff which is
blown" (Isaiah 41:2), and as is made clear in their words (Ta`anit 21a),
but they still said (Nedarim 32a), "For what was Abraham punished and
were his sons enslaved in Egypt four hundred years, because he made a
draft of Talmidei Hakhamim, as it is said 'And his took out his pupils,
those born in his house', and they were Talmidei Hakhamim occupying
themselves with the Torah. And "draft" is forced labor by compulsion,
and a Talmid Hakham is called anyone whose Torah is his profession and
whose main occupation his in words of the Torah, and his right is not
compromised at all if he is engaged in an occupation as much as to
support himself and not to become rich, since in every free moment he
returns to his Torah, as it is made clear in Yore De`a 243:2, - since
this is the main virtue according to the Torah ideal of occupying
oneself with the Torah and worldly pursuits, and all Torah with which
there is no labor is in the end void, - although his Torah should be
fixed and his labor temporary; that is, every time he is free from
his pursuits, which he does not extend in order to become rich, he
is occupied with the Torah. And the success of the state in its war
depends on there being in it Talmidei Hakhamim who are occupied with
the Torah, by whose virtue the war is victorious, and they benefit the
state more than the soldiers who fight. And to David the soldiers said
that he shall not go out to war, "Since you will be for us from the city
to help" (Samuel II 18:3), and Jonathan translated "in prayer", and thus
explained Rashi and Radaq and the Metsudoth, and they said in Sanhedrin
42a, "Had not David occupied with the Torah, Yoav would not have made
war"; that is, would not have won the war. Alexander of Macedon also
said about Shim`on Ha-Tsaddiq, "A liken image of this is leads me where
my war is" (cf. Seder Ha-Dorot, Shim`on Ha-Tsaddiq": that is, the virtue
of the Torah and the Service which he z"l was supporting was benefiting
him also.

  And from out of this the enlightened government will certainly act,
which knows all the time how to raise itself above the coarse popular
spirit and recognizes how to honor the remnants whom the Lord calls,
who occupy themselves with the Torah, who are faithful with the fear of
Heaven and serving the Lord, and will not disturb them from their holy
service. And by strength of the supreme spiritual bounty, which holy men
like these reap on its state and its kingdom, it shall win its wars and
shall add courage and great heroism, and they, these individuals, will
benefit it much more with their spiritual strength in their being
occupied with Torah and morals and service of the Lord, and bestowing
by this a spirit of holiness and faith in their surroundings and their
circle, for in this they are heroes of strength much more than what they
could benefit it with their weak physical strength in their going out to
do material jobs. And we are sure that the government will know how to
use the strength of each one of the Children of Israel according to his
virtue, and shall the strength of the G-d fearing Talmidei Hakhamim in
its place in the holiness of the Torah, and will not desecrate it in the
profane use of war and draft, for which they are not suited at all
according to their trait and the nature of their body and soul.

  And so high in Israel is the distinction of Torah study to those who
study it constantly, that according to the Talmudic tradition it cannot
be put off even by the command of any king or ruler, and it is a
tradition in our hands from Haza"l on what is said (Samuel II 20:4-5),
"And the king said to Amasa, 'Assemble to me the men of Judah', and he
was later than time which he appointed for him", that the reason for his
delay was "because he found the scholars who were opening the tractate"
(Sanhedrin 49a), and Yoav who, wanting to apologize for this, killed
Amasa, was found guilty by David, and Shelomo carried out the sentence,
because the right was with Amasa, not to take even for this urgent war
those who were occupied with the Torah, to disturb them from the holy
occupation on which the world stands. And it is evident that Amasa did
not want to bother them with the matter of the war, that he did not
stop them from their learning even to ask if they would like to go as
volunteers, because they had opened the tractate. But to force Talmidei
Hakhamim to cancel their Torah and to go to war or to any other material
job, this is always forbidden as we have made clear from the prohibition
of making a draft on Talmidei Hakhamim.

  And everything revolves and goes around this great principle, that
the success of the state and the actual winning of the war is much
connected to the spiritual service, that the individuals among those of
the state who are devoted to the service of Heaven continue their holy
service in Torah and service of the Lord which is imperative in order to
progress always every day. Therefore, the Talmidei Hakhamim who occupy
themselves with the Torah , they are the defenders of the land and are
helping the national arms succeed, no less but more than every fighting
soldier, and from this the outcome is certain, that an ideal kingdom
which recognizes the splendor of the Holy will not force the students
who keep watch over the gates of the Torah, to suspend them from their
Torah and to engage in material work for which they are not suited.


End of Volume 16 Issue 72