Volume 17 Number 15
                       Produced: Fri Dec  9  1:19:41 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Army Service - in Practice
         [Shaul Wallach]
Comments on "Flood and Mesorah"
         [Stan Tenen]


From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>
Date: Thu, 08 Dec 94 11:28:26 IST
Subject: Army Service - in Practice

    Again I wish to express my appreciation for the latest contributions
to our discussion. In particular I am grateful to Eli Turkel and Zvi
Weiss for putting the basic practical issues into sharper focus. I must
say that after rereading their posts I find that I agree with most of
the points they make. In a separate posting I have dealt with the
theoretical halachic side of the issue, and here I would like to respond
again to Eli and Zvi and try to sum up my feelings on the subject.

    Eli asked about the recent affair of the yeshiva graduates in the
army. Ha-Modia` reported that it even reached the Knesset. However, the
story was reported somewhat differently, or perhaps more completely, in
the weekly Hadshot Mishpaha. To the latter's reporter, the soldiers
said that they did indeed enjoy the respect of the nonreligious
soldiers, and that every Hanuka candle lighting was a moving experience.
This, I agree, demonstrates the potential of influencing nonreligious
Israelis through Haredi participation in the army.

    On the other hand, it is not true, as might be gathered from Zvi's
posting, that Haredim are unconcerned about secular Israelis. Nor did
I intend to give this impression in my comment about the ignorant
hating the scholars. Thus the Haredi world has many organizations which
are active in outreach efforts towards our fellow Jews. One of the first
of these, Yad Le-Ahim, was founded back in 1950 by yeshiva students from
Benei Beraq who went into the Yemenite immigrant camps and tried to help
them resist the coercive measures of the secular establishment. And
besides the many yeshivot for Ba`alei Teshuva, we have `Arakhim, Toda`a,
Moreshet Avot, Taglit and other organizations for the spreading of Torah
values. Moreshet Avot, for example, has had seminars for soldiers. Habad
has also been active in the army. The problem here is that in recent
years the army has restricted the activities of these groups on the army
bases. Just last week this made the news when, due to secular leftist
pressure, the army reversed an earlier decision to allow Habad back into
the bases.

    Zvi questions the relevance of the British army to our discussion.
Let me make this clear once again. What is relevant is not the British
army or World War I at all, but the halachic argument itself that Rav
Kook ZS"L used to support the exemption. To this day we see scholars
debating the force of all the Talmudic sources Rav Kook cited, as they
apply to our current situation.

    Zvi also asks whether poorly motivated students should be exempted.
I find this hard to answer because it is possible that later on they
will become better motivated and want to keep learning for its own
sake. I would prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt. As for
the Rambam's halacha "Mi She-Nesa'o Libo" (Shemita 13:13), I don't
think it applies at all to exempting Talmidei Hakhamim from the army,
as I have explained in the posting on the halachic aspect.

    Eli mentions Netzarim. Of course it is less safe there than in
Benei Beraq. I have been there, to Hebron and to Gush Qatif, although
not in the last two years. I was not pleased with what I saw, especially
in Hebron. It reminds me of what R. Ovadia Yosef wrote in Tehumin,
Vol. 10, which I quoted in the halachic part. Here we have a very
difficult "theological" problem, since opinions are divided over whether
we have today - i.e. in our current situation - the Mizwa of conquering
Erez Yisrael. There is also the difficult problem of the status of the
current State of Israel in light of the Torah, since it was founded on
secular principles and has no king or Sanhedrin. For those who negate
the value of the state or the hold that there is no Mizwa to conquer the
land, there is no justification to put Jewish lives in danger in order
to hold on to the territories. Both Rav Schach and Rav Ovadia Yosef seem
to hold this kind of view, although the Haredi leadership seems very
reluctant to come out clearly on these issues. It is quite a dilemma,
because as Eli points out, the yeshivot owe their very existence to
the grace of the state, and I can give no clear answer.

    The same goes with respect to Eli's prediction of what would
happen were the draft to end. If Eli is correct, then we would have
to be thankful to the army for helping to keep people in the yeshivot
and away from worldly pursuits. We might ask exactly the same thing
about anti-Semitism in the Diaspora. That is, perhaps it really was
the hostility of the non-Jewish environment which helped keep the Jews
from engaging in worldly pursuits and assimilating. Russia, of course,
is an exception. I would like to believe that a strong religious
leadership would be able to encourage as many people as possible to stay
in the yeshivot as long as possible, even in the absence of any possible
outside incentives such as the army. What I can say, however, based on
my own limited observations in Benei Beraq, is that at least from the
age of Talmud Torah (elementary school age) the students are strongly
encouraged to go on to junior yeshivot, then senior yeshivot and
kolelim after marriage. I am not aware of anyone being encouraged to
stay in school in order to avoid the army. In Benei Beraq, at least,
yeshivot and kolelim are simply the norm of society, and I believe
that this reflects an authentic value being placed on Torah study.

    I am not so sure about what Eli says that most Haredi Kolel students
stay there for life. The total number of deferments for Torah study
today (on the order of magnitude of about 25,000 to 30,000), is only a
small fraction of the total male Haredi electorate in the last national
elections. I know many Haredi businessmen and jobholders, some of whom
are among my colleagues here at Bar-Ilan. At least of the latter even
served in Lebanon.

    As Eli says, the growth of the Haredi society is outstripping its
material resources and has become increasingly dependent on the state
for support. Previously I wrote that this is not a good situation
and that all of religious Jewry should get together for our mutual
spiritual and material benefit. But there is another side to this,
too. Perhaps it is the Divine will that in Israel precisely the
secular majority are those who are providing for the yeshivot and
the Haredim. Spiritually I would not call this extortion at all. It
would just be the Divine plan in giving them a share in the Mizwot.
For this we should all be grateful - we for their aid, and they for
the Mizwa.

    In any case, I certainly agree with Eli and Zvi on the need to
improve our image in the eyes of the public at large. As I have said
several times already, those students who, despite all efforts, turn
out not to be able to learn full time should be encouraged to turn to
worldly pursuits so that they can be a source of support themselves for
the yeshivot rather than a burden on society. They should go to the
the army in groups by themselves with adequate spiritual supervision
so that they do not fall prey to secular influences. And when Haredim
do serve in the army - as indeed they do - the most should be made of
it. Even if the ideological motive of serving the state be absent,
every religious Jew who goes to the army should see himself as a
representative of Hashem to sanctify His name among the Jewish people.
He can perform a great Qiddush Hashem by showing his Ahavat Yisrael
through his acts of charity and his devotion to every mission placed
upon him, wherever he may be.




From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Tue, 6 Dec 1994 07:51:40 -0800
Subject: Comments on "Flood and Mesorah"

In m-j 98 Yosef Bechhofer says: "6. Stan Tenen and Rabbi Shalom Carmy 
rehash the accusation that we "Literalists" do not look for deeper, more 
metaphysical and meaningful understandings. "

The only "accusation" that I am making is that the Torah community has 
left vital work to persons, like myself, who do not have proper Talmud 
Torah educations.  This makes it very easy to be critical without having 
to offer any explanations or shed any light.  

I think I have been very careful to qualify my remarks about 
"literalists" and literalism by nearly always saying *exclusive* 
literalists. or *exclusive literalism*, or translations that are 
*solely* literal.  (If not, apologies for the slip-up; it was 
unintentional.)  Let there be no doubt, my objection is to 
*exclusivity*, not to literalism per se.  I also accept the literal, 
Pshat, standard Mesorah translations AS LONG AS they are understood as 
INCLUSIVE of the other levels of Torah.  I strongly object to EXCLUSIVE 
literalism, because a partial truth is not the truth - and a partial 
truth can sometimes leave a misimpression or produce confusion where 
none need exist.  (The 6-days = 18-billion years discussion, for 
example, only presents a problem when we are required to believe that 
"yomim" are ONLY literal days.)

I certainly do not reject the teachings of our sages.  In fact, samples 
of what is supposed to be Nachmanides' personal handwriting are the 
closest overall match to the letter shapes we have found.  For this, and 
many other explicit reasons, it is almost certain that Nachmanides was 
aware of the models we have recovered from the letter sequence at the 
beginning of B'reshit.  Accounting for what we have found otherwise 
requires far more elaborate and far less plausible speculation. (So too, 
the author of Ain Dorshin *must* have been aware of these models and 
also the commentators must have been aware of these models.)

I do not mean to be insulting.  Would that I were better at phrasing, 
and more knowledgeable of traditional teachings; then I might be able to 
express myself in less controversial language.  In honesty, however, I 
am still mystified about what it is that is insulting in what I have 
posted.  Intellectual honesty sometimes requires facing unpleasant 
facts.  Sometimes a person who really cares will risk criticism when a 
person to whom the issues mean less will be more accommodating.  If I am 
to continue to investigate these issues at all, then I can see no other 
course but to be as honest as I possibly can.  I cannot say if there is 
some deficiency in the teachings of our sages, because I am not 
sufficiently knowledgeable about their teachings.  Those who are more 
knowledgeable will have to do that.  All I can do is to point out a 
problem - and ask those who are more knowledgeable to help me to 
understand it. 

I don't mean to constantly use my work as an example, but, given that it 
is the only work I can speak about with any authority, I have no other 
choice.  (I know I am leaving myself open to easy criticism when I make 
the following remarks.  There is no need to tell me that my work is not 
proven.  I know that.)

At this point, this is a hypothetical question, and is intended to 
represent many similar examples from researchers other than myself.  IF 
the finding that the Hebrew letters are generated by a model hand in the 
form of a Tefillin strap bound on our hand is correct, then how is it 
that this knowledge is not available either from our current teachers, 
or from our current understanding of what our past sages taught?  If the 
Hebrew letters come from a Tefillin strap specified in B'reshit, why 
don't we know about it?

Two choices:
1. This theory is incorrect.
2. This theory is essentially correct.  (This is still a work in 
progress, and the qualification is necessary.)

If the answer is 2, what explanation is possible?  How could so basic a 
teaching have become lost?  Like Poe's "purloined letter," we are taught 
that the letters are made up of yods, we are taught to uas a torah 
"yad", we are taught our tefillin form letters in our hand and that they 
connect our hand, heart, mind and soul together.  Yet somehow, we don't 
know these teachings taken together tell us our letters are in our 
hands.  If a teaching as basic as this is correct, but not now known, 
what other teachings may also been lost?  I am not trying to be 
insulting; rather I believe there is a need to address these questions.  
Is it insulting in and of itself to propose, based on real evidence, 
that we have lost anything at all?

 - Perhaps when we recover what we have lost we will lose fewer Jews by 
assimilation.  Perhaps what we are now not looking at is exactly what we 
have been seeking. 

I believe that there are several possible contributing factors to our 
loss of knowledge about our alphabet, for example.

1. The nearly continuous persecutions of the past several thousand years 
have indeed taken their toll.  We are human.  We have been under attack 
and there has been damage.

2. The attractions of the haskalah and the industrial revolution have 
drained away many of our best minds, who would otherwise have been 
interested and educated in the teachings that may have been lost.  How 
many Aryeh Kaplans might now be assimilated and unavailable to help us 
to look for and retain these teachings?

3. Our teachers in this generation, mostly due to the destruction of the 
holocaust and our natural defensive reaction ever since, have had more 
pressing matters of survival to deal with before reviewing and 
researching teachings that may have become obscure.  (This is the most 
common response of my teachers.)

4. Our sages, for better or worse, have seen fit to keep these ideas 
secret.  (Actually, I believe that the whole idea of trying to keep 
kabbalistic teachings secret is gratuitous.  No one who is not ready to 
understand kabbalistic concepts will be able to make any sense of them 
anyway.  Often a person, even a sage, who doesn't understand is tempted 
to explain their lack of understanding by allowing themselves to believe 
someone else is keeping secrets.  Actually, I've always found the 
"secrets" theory particularly insulting of our sages.  Saying someone 
has modified a teaching to keep it secret is little different from 
saying that they did not tell the whole truth.  I don't believe our 
sages were/are untruthful.)

I am sure that there are many other possible reasons or contributing 
factors.  Rather than continue to try to shoehorn creation into 6-
impossible days, perhaps we might discuss this issue of *possible* 
damage to our teachings, and how that might be corrected.

Happy Hanukah,


End of Volume 17 Issue 15