Moshe Klausner

A response to Rav Amnon Yitzchak on the Charedi draft

Two weeks ago, Rav Amnon Yitzchak shared a video explaining his stance against drafting Charedim, quoting various מאמרי חז”ל.

To the casual listener, the sources seem to show that lomdei Torah should not fight. However, on closer examination, it appears that these mekoros are being taken out of context and misrepresented in a misleading way.

A response to Rav Amnon Yitzchak’s statements:

  1. Claim: Everyone agrees that those not learning full-time should be enlisted into the army.

Fact: Many Charedi rabbis are saying it’s Asur for any Charedi person to join the army, as they will go off the derech, including Rav Moshe Maya, who sits on Shas’s Motezes Gedolei Hatorah.

2. Claim: The government wants to enlist the Charedim to make them secular, not for the safety of Israel.

Fact: While in the 1950s, the Israeli government was complicit in secularizing the Israeli people, and some individuals still do want them to secularize, we are no longer living in the 1950s. Those learning in Hesder yeshivot are able to adhere to their strict religious lifestyle, and if there would be a will, Charedi Hesder-style units can be created that would cater to the Charedi public.

Secondly, even if some want to enlist Charedim to “secularize” them, there is still an obligation to fight in a מלחמת מצוה, irrespective of some people’s motives. At this time when there are even Roshei Yeshiva fighting in the war, this argument appears very weak.

3. Claim: The Charedim are not needed to join.

Fact: Unfortunately, due to the lack of soldiers, the age of exception is being delayed, many are returning for their third shifts, they are tired and overworked, and Hesder boys are leaving yeshiva early to fight.

4. Claim: אם בחוקתי תלכו, ונתתי שלום בארץ. If you study Torah, Hashem will give you peace.

Fact: He conveniently skips the words in between those phrases, namely, ועשיתם אותם, that the learning is so that you should DO the Mitzvos. Learning Torah while shirking responsibility for fighting in a מלחמת מצוה does not bring peace.

5. Claim: He says כֹּ֚ה אָמַ֣ר יְהֹוָ֔ה אִם־לֹ֥א בְרִיתִ֖י יוֹמָ֣ם וָלָ֑יְלָה חֻקּ֛וֹת שָׁמַ֥יִם וָאָ֖רֶץ לֹא־שָֽׂמְתִּי׃, to say that if we don’t keep the covenant, the world would stop to exist.

Fact: Of course this is true, but it’s being taken out of context. Limud HaTorah without fulfilling its commandments is a breach of our covenant between us and Hashem. Having more people join the army, even לומדי תורה, is In fulfillment of fighting a מלחמת מצוה, as they are not patur from fighting. That itself is keeping to our side of the covenant.

6. Claim: Leftist Jews are not Jews.

Fact: The Chazon Ish and many others have called secular Jews תינוק שנשבה, but denying their Jewishness is a terrible thing to do.

7. Claim: The government wants to enlist the Charedim because they hate the Torah, as who are the Lomdei Torah? The Charedim.

Fact: Does the Dati Leumi community, who serve and learn Torah, not count as Lomdei Torah? There are currently 80 Hesder yeshivot. This is not the Russian army where children are taken away for 25 years and deprived of religion. To serve for several years in a religious setting while protecting your fellow Jews is not a שעת השמד- a time of persecution against Judaism.

8. Claim: Rav Kook said lomdei Torah should not join the army as their learning would bring even more merit.

Fact: Rav Kook was discussing the enlistment of England’s Jews into the British military during WWI. He writes very clearly that for a מלחמת מצוה, everyone goes and fights, including תלמידי חכמים. His son Rav Tzvi Yehuda clarified this as well. Why is Rav Amnon Yitzchak hiding that important point?

9. Claim: we don’t need a large army. See how Hashem told Gideon to only bring 300 soldiers? All we need is emunah.

Fact: It was precisely because Hashem told Gideon to bring only 300 soldiers that he did not bring more. Otherwise, he would have brought many more soldiers, as we can’t rely on miracles unless Hashem explicitly tells us otherwise. We do not have prophets in our generation telling us that we don’t need soldiers. We need to do our hishtadlus. The army is spread thin as we speak.

10. Claim: The Jews in Egypt were not angry at the Leviim who were not enslaved, so we shouldn’t be upset at the lomdei Torah for not participating.

Fact: I’d hope the rest of the Jews in Egypt wouldn’t think to themselves, “Oh, how I’d hope more Jews would be enslaved.” But when dealing with helping each other to protect Am Yisrael, of course everyone should help.

11. Claim: The Rambam in הלכות שמיטה ויובל says Shevet Levi and lomdei Torah are exempt from fighting.

Fact: The Rambam says Shevet Levi doesn’t fight “like the rest of Yisrael,” but is clear in Hilchos Melachim that Shevet Levi did fight. Even a Choson, who has a mitzvah to stay with his wife, has to leave her and fight, of course, someone without that mitzvah is obligated (see הגהות מיימוניות there).

12. Claim: Chizkiyahu did not let anyone fight against Sancheriv and told anyone who would leave the Beis Medrash would be killed.

Fact: The Gemara in Sanhedrin 94b does in fact say that he said that anyone who leaves the Beis Medrash will be killed, but that was not said during שעת מלחמה. The Gemara explains in what merit did that generation have to be successful against Sancheriv, and the Gemara says it’s because of the level of religiosity of that generation. Chizkiyahu reinvigorated Torah learning, and in that merit, God brought a miracle that killed 185,000 soldiers. The Gemara never says that he told the Jews that they should not enlist in the army.

He never threatened people who would be going out to fight, even if one takes the Gemara’s use of the sword metaphor literally.

13. He contradicts himself, by saying we don’t have a worthy army, since Moshe and Yehoshua sent the tzadikim out to war, whereas our army is secular. In the same breath though, he says that the tzadikim and talmidei chachamim should learn and NOT fight. So which one is it? The only way to make the army full of tzadikim is to join it and improve it!

14. Claim: He says that any war not being initiated to us by the אורים ותומים will fail. Who says we should even be fighting?

Fact: What does he expect us to do nowadays when we don’t have the אורים ותומים? He’s implying that since we don’t have the אורים ותומים we aren’t fighting a just war. Should we all just go quietly to the slaughter?

15. Claim: Hashem told Yehoshua to learn Torah before fighting Ai, so we see the importance of Torah.

Fact: In fact, they went out to fight the next morning, so it’s clear that the learning was not an exemption from fighting. Secondly, the Radak explains that this midrash is to be understood homiletically and not literally, as a time for war is not a time for learning.

16. Claim: Many people in the army do not share our values.

Fact: I agree! And that is more of a reason to enlist and improve the army from within.

17. Claim: The reason the IDF wants so many soldiers is because they have no emunah and don’t believe in Hashem.

Fact: Maybe it’s because we can’t rely on miracles, and we don’t have a command from Hashem to only send out a handful of soldiers to defend and destroy hundreds of thousands of enemy combatants. We need to do what is needed to protect ourselves from the enemies that surround us. There can be a middle ground that believes in Hashem’s protection and also understands that it is also our obligation to do what is necessary to protect ourselves.

About the Author
Moshe Klausner lives in Ramat Bet Shemesh, originally from New Jersey. He is a father to three active boys. He is a Speech Pathologist by profession, working locally in Bet Shemesh and at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, specializing in voice disorders. He also lains each Shabbos at shul. He loves Torah, Israel, and the Jewish people.
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