Volume 16 Number 77
                       Produced: Tue Nov 22 21:51:30 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Army (2)
         [Zvi Weiss, Zvi Weiss]
Exemption from the Army
         [Eli Turkel]
Haredim and the Army - Part 3
         [Shaul Wallach]


From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 1994 16:24:00 -0500
Subject: Army

Has anyone ever seen a VALID reason for the Chareidim not to recite a
Tefilla on behalf of the Israeli Army... Here in Chu"l, one of the
somewhat divisive issues was that the various Agudah shuls will -- in
the vast majority of cases -- REFUSE to recite a prayer on behalf of the
IDF (I am not asking -- G-d Forbid -- that they should recite on behalf
of the Medina... but the ARMY which defends FRUM
areas/settlements?????).  Any ideas on this??


From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 1994 16:31:26 -0500
Subject: Army

Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook ZT"L -- according to various authorities is considered
to have BEST understood his father's thoughts and philosophies.  To assert
that his opinion / understanding of his father's position re Army Service
is not to be followed because of one's own subjective personal understanding
of a written document seems a bit difficult to understand.



From: <turkel@...> (Eli Turkel)
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 94 11:59:03 +0200
Subject: Exemption from the Army

     Shaul Wallach quotes at length a responsa from Rav Kook. I first 
bring some important points of his translation

>>  ... 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.

>> how its military damage is very small from the exemption of the students 
>> of the several yeshivot found in the land.

     I think that it is clear that Rav Kook is demanding the exemption
of a small group of yeshiva students who will be among the leaders of
the next generation. This is a far cry from the exemption of tens of
thousands of yeshiva students independent of their contribution to
learning. In addition he is talking about exemption from the British
army not the Israeli army. I fully support the exemption of yeshiva
students as those given to other divinity students, i.e. students who
will become the future rabbis, educators, judges etc. of the next
generation. I am sure that Rav Kook would not have supported exemptions
for students for the rest of their lives without any equivalent public
service. Rav Kook (and other gedolim) spent their whole day helping the
public with their problems. For a yeshiva student to decide that he will
study Torah for himself without serving the community (because of lack
of ability, desire etc) is unacceptable. Rav Tarfon was upset because he
saved his life by letting his capturer know that he was Rav Tarfon. The
Torah is not to be used for one's own purposes ("gardom lachpor
bo"). Rambam objects to a rabbi getting a salary. If one looks at the
Kesef Mishnah on that Rambam he objects to the Rambam on two counts. One
that without a salary we will not have leaders of the future
generation. Two that in the days of the temple some public servants
received a salary from the Temple. In either case it is clear that
getting a salary and equivalently being exempt from public duties
applies to those either actively working for the community or else
studying for such a position.

    My son is presently studying in a kollel after completing hesder. In
this kollel attendance is taken every day and their salary is decreased
after five days late a month, in addition there are constant tests.  In
the vast majority of kollels attendance are not taken and the army is
not informed if the student is not up to level.  Today if a mediocre or
uninspired student wishes to remain in kollel for life he is totally
exempt from army or any other public service.

    Shaul further states

>> The last figure I heard quoted giving the number of Haredi yeshiva 
>> students was 22,000, or only 2% of the draft age population.

    This figure is hard to believe. First, he quotes figures for Haredi
men and compares it to the general population of men and women. This
already halves the true figures. The figures I have seen is that the
Haredi population is about 7-10% of the total population and should be
about the same for army age recruits. Shaul is quite right that in
recent years, with the influx of Russian immigrants, that the army is
rejecting many older and other recruits. This is a new phenomenon and
does not justify the philosophic problems. In addition Shaul ignores the
immense (and I truly mean that word) hatred that this issue causes is
the general Israeli population.

    Finally Shaul states

>>  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

   I find this logic absolutely atrocious. Not only is there no sympathy
for those soldiers serving in Lebanon or the Gaza strip but Shaul
implies that it is not much more dangerous then living in Bnei Brak or
Jerusalem.  Next time I speak with a mother worried about her son in
Lebanon I will comfort her that she is company with the mothers in Bnei
Brak worried about the safety of their children!

   I have an entire book on the special halachas in the army. Many
things, e.g. carrying guns, doing guard duty with jeeps and lights,
etc. are permitted in the army on shabbat because of "pikuach nefesh"
(life threatening - security situations). Is Shaul suggesting that this
be allowed in Bnei Brak also because it is equally dangerous? Or perhaps
he feels that we should not guard army camps on shabbat because it is
really safe.  A Lubavitcher boy was killed in Crown Heights, New York
just because he was Jewish. Maybe living in Crown Heights is the
equivalent of Israeli army service and they should be allowed to carry
guns on shabbat.

    Shaul accuses me of being emotional. After one more soldier has been
killed at Tzomet Netzarim (near Gaza) I feel I have a right to be
emotional about the risks our soldiers take for the defense of the
entire country and the appreciation they should be getting.



From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>
Date: Sun, 20 Nov 94 20:41:13 IST
Subject: Haredim and the Army - Part 3

     This article deals with Rabbi Kook's opinion on military service
for yeshiva students and its implications for regular and hesder service
in Israel today.

     Rabbi Abraham Yitshaq Ha-Cohen Kook Zatz"l was the first Ashkenazi
Chief Rabbi in Eretz Yisrael during the British Mandate (1921-1935).
He had been the Rabbi of Yaffo from his arrival in 1904 to 1914, when he
left to participate in the Agudat Yisrael congress in Frankfurt, which
was cancelled because of the outbreak of World War I. After staying in
Zurich, he was invited to England in 1916 as the Rabbi of the Mahziqei
Ha-Dat congregation, where he remained until the end of the war. While
in London, he wrote a letter to Chief Rabbi Dr. Joseph Zvi Hertz Zatz"l
demanding that the latter use his influence to prevent the drafting of
yeshiva students into the army. This letter, dated 20 Adar 5677 (1917),
appears in "Iggerot Ha-Rayah" (Mossad Harav Kook, Jerusalem, 1965),
Vol. 3, pp.88-92, and a full translation is given in part 2 of this

     Rabbi Kook's opinion is very clear: yeshiva students are exempt
from all kinds of military and public service whatsoever. The reasons
Rabbi Kook gives for this ruling show the supreme position which yeshiva
studies hold among the Jewish people. The yeshivot, he writes, are the
"soul of Jewry". For us, study of the Torah is the "foremost of all
duties". It is a "holy duty" to ensure that a certain part of Jewry be
be committed to daily study without interruption for any material task.
So central to our spiritual survival are the yeshivot, that closing
them would be like destroying the synagogues, burning the Torah, and
decreeing "apostasy" on the Jewish people. He notes that religious
study is more important in Judaism than in Christianity, and that the
government had exempted Christian theological students and was committed
to religious equality. According to Rabbi Kook, wars are won by virtue of
the Talmidei Hakhamim, "who benefit the state more than the soldiers who

     Rabbi Kook cites several passages from the Talmud to support his
opinion. The main source is the prohibition to draft Talmudic scholars,
which Abraham and king Asa were punished for violating (Nedarim 32a,
Sota 10b). There is no difference between a milhemet reshut (permissible
war) and a milhemet mitswah (necessary war). He cites the Midrash
(Megilla 3a), where Joshua is rebuked for having let the yeshiva go idle
for one day during the conquest of Eretz Yisrael. On the value of study
during wartime, he quotes Sanhedrin 42a: "Had not David occupied himself
with the Torah, Yoav would not have made war". Finally, according to
Sanhedrin 49a, Yoav was condemned because he killed Amasa, who rightly
left the scholars alone without drafting them to fight against Sheva ben

     From the plain sense of his letter, it appears that the haredi
yeshivot are the ones who are following his ideal today more than the
hesder yeshivot.

     When the issue of drafting yeshiva students in Eretz Yisrael first
arose in 1948 during the siege of Jerusalem, this opinion of Rabbi Kook
was cited by those among the haredim who supported the exemption of
yeshiva students from military service. This aroused the wrath of R.
Zvi Yehuda Ztz"l, Rabbi Kook's son, who held that his father's ruling,
made during World War I, was irrelevant to the duty of saving lives
in Eretz Yisrael. He branded the citation of part of his father's
letter out of context as a "distortion of the worst and most shameful
kind". A reproduction of this notice, dated 25 Nisan 5708, appears in
the booklet "Le-Ezrat Hashem Ba-Giborim" by R. Yair Meizlish and R.
Nadav Shnerb (1985). The authors of this booklet endeavor to show that
all the sources quoted by Rabbi Kook do not apply to a milhemet mitswah.
Moreover, they claim that Rabbi Kook's motivation was partly to save
the Jewish refugees then residing in England from being sent back to
Russia, where they were wanted as deserters. Accordingly, Rabbi Kook's
intention "was to save Jewish lives at any price, and for this he was
willing to present a memorandum which did not fit with the halachic
truth, as long as it obtained this holy purpose" (p. 33). As evidence
for this, they quote cases in which he gave certificates of exemption
even to men whose credentials as scholars or even observant Jews were
questionable (see Hayim Lifschitz, "Shivhei Ha-Rayah", Jerusalem, 1979,
pp. 122-126).

     However, with all due apologies, I find it inconceivable that the
saintly Rabbi Kook would knowingly forge a halachic opinion, and in
doing so deceive the Chief Rabbi of England. Rabbi Hertz was a great
scholar in his own right, and is famous among English-speaking Jewry
for his commentaries on the Pentateuch and the Daily Prayerbook. The
conceptual portion of his letter, in which he stresses the supreme
importance of uninterrupted Torah study, gives the impression that it is
universally valid. His citation of the rebuke given to Joshua appears to
imply that even during a milhemet mitswah in Eretz Yisrael, regular
study is not to be suspended.

     Moreover, a closer look at the historical circumstances also
indicates that Rabbi Kook's opinion was one of principle rather than
of convenience. When he arrived in London in early 1916, England had
absorbed a large number of Jewish refugees from Belgium and Russia. The
Home Secretary at the time, Herbert Samuel (later the first High
Commissioner in Palestine), had proposed that the refugees from Russia
of military age be extradited back to Russia to serve in the Czarist
army. This would have meant almost certain death for these Jews, since
they had illegally avoided the draft by fleeing Russia. Rabbi Kook
therefore presented a memorandum to Parliament and the government
ministers demanding that these refugees be left alone and exempted from
service in both the Russian and British armies ("Iggerot", vol. 3, pp.
54-57). From this letter it is evident that Rabbi Kook recognized the
duty of Jews who were already British citizens to serve, as indeed they

     The issue of yeshiva students arose a year later, in early 1917,
when the proposal was made that the previously existing exemption for
them be abolished. It was on this occasion that Rabbi Kook wrote to
Rabbi Hertz. He had, indeed, been giving exemptions to yeshiva students,
but these were British citizens, not Russian refugees. The latter were
exempt since they were not citizens, and were sent back to Russia only
after the Communist revolution in late 1917, when they were no longer
in danger. His letter, therefore, was not at all motivated by a desire
to save the lives of the refugees, as they were not then in danger.

     At the very same time that the issue of exemptions for yeshiva
students arose, plans were being made for forming the Jewish Legion,
which saw action in the final liberation of Eretz Yisrael from the
Turks in 1918. Rabbi Kook encouraged the volunteers, and made efforts
to see that their religious needs be respected during their service
("Iggerot", vol. 3, pp. 136-138). In this letter, he saw no reason
in particular why a Jewish army should conquer the Holy Land, but
did support defense of its borders by a Jewish force. He did, however,
realize the importance of the fact that Jewish soldiers were serving
in the Allied armies in pressing demands afterwards for the Jewish
National Home that had been promised in the Balfour Declaration.

     From all these circumstances, it seems very clear to me that Rabbi
Kook did not object to Jewish participation in World War I. On the
contrary, he saw the contribution it would make in rebuilding our
National Home. Yet we have seen that he nevertheless ruled in favor
of an absolute, unconditional release of yeshiva students from this
national duty.

     The individual pieces of evidence which Rabbi Kook brought in
support of his ruling have become the subject of discussion among later
scholars. Each can be weighed on its on merits as to whether it applies
to a milhemet mitswah or not. However, in view of the importance Rabbi
Kook attaches to the need of a "registered portion" of the Jewish people
to be devoted wholly to the study of the Torah, under all circumstances
and without distraction, I can no longer say a word against our haredi
yeshiva students today. The Torah they are learning today will be the
inheritance of our children tomorrow.




End of Volume 16 Issue 77