Aron Schoenfeld

Brothers in Arms

I recently saw a class on Shavuot night advertised in a modern orthodox high school in New York titled “The 2 frontlines, choosing between yeshiva or the army.” This really struck a chord with me as there seems to be a massive divide in the Jewish community over the choice between army and yeshiva. This battle has become the forefront of Israeli society, which now has moved the divide from the judicial system reform to should the Hardeidim serve in the army. 

The debate over haredi enlistment has been part of the modern State of Israel since its establishment. But the controversy over shared responsibility over protecting the Land of Israel goes back to the time of Moshe and the Jews in the desert.  In Numbers chapter 32 Reuven and Gad approach Moshe and Beni Yisroel;s leaders  with the idea of staying in TransJordan and not settling in  the land of Israel with their brethren.  Moshe first response to them is 32:6

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֔ה לִבְנֵי־גָ֖ד וְלִבְנֵ֣י רְאוּבֵ֑ן הַאַֽחֵיכֶ֗ם יָבֹ֙אוּ֙ לַמִּלְחָמָ֔ה וְאַתֶּ֖ם תֵּ֥שְׁבוּ פֹֽה׃

Moses replied to the Gadites and the Reubenites, “Are your brothers to go to war while you stay here?

Reuvan and Gad explain to Moshe that they will help conquer and settle then land and only then will they return to their homes in TransJordan.  32:17-18

וַאֲנַ֜חְנוּ נֵחָלֵ֣ץ חֻשִׁ֗ים לִפְנֵי֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל עַ֛ד אֲשֶׁ֥ר אִם־הֲבִֽיאֹנֻ֖ם אֶל־מְקוֹמָ֑ם וְיָשַׁ֤ב טַפֵּ֙נוּ֙ בְּעָרֵ֣י הַמִּבְצָ֔ר מִפְּנֵ֖י יֹשְׁבֵ֥י הָאָֽרֶץ׃

And we will hasten as shock-troops in the van of the Israelites until we have established them in their home, while our children stay in the fortified towns because of the inhabitants of the land.

לֹ֥א נָשׁ֖וּב אֶל־בָּתֵּ֑ינוּ עַ֗ד הִתְנַחֵל֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אִ֖ישׁ נַחֲלָתֽוֹ׃

We will not return to our homes until the Israelites—every one of them—are in possession of their portion.

This idea that all members of Jewish society must share the responsibility of protecting the people and the land led to the creation of Hesder Yeshivas, where students learn Torah and serve in the army. 

I am the first to admit that I am not fully aware of all the nuances of this debate and the details of what each side wants in the law, but in short, it appears that the Haredi community prefers to have their men go to yeshiva and learn, while the other side wants them to join the army and serve. At the same time, funding for these yeshivas is another political pawn as the government helps pay for these students to learn, have health insurance etc… But is there a way that the Haredi community can use their commitment to Torah to help our soldiers who are serving in the army?

Recently, I was on a base to BBQ for the soldiers there and one of the volunteers needed to say Kaddish, the prayer for a deceased family member, only said in the presence of a minyan, 10 men. In talking to the soldiers, as they were rounding up ten men for mincha, they explained that there is a shul on every base, with a Torah, but often, there is no minyan, despite there being almost 100 men on base. At any given time, soldiers are on missions, returning from an overnight mission, training, sleeping or involved in a wide range of army related activities, making it hard for them to ensure that there are 10 men, at set times, 3 times a day, even with some soldiers saying kaddish for their loved ones that were lost on Oct. 7, in the war or from natural causes this year. 

Maybe this is how Haredim can serve. Let us turn every base into a Kollel; send 15 yeshiva guys to the base and they can sit and learn in the shul, having the soldiers on that base in mind, while ensuring there is a minyan for most of their day. They can assist around the base, help serve meals, do some basic training if they so desire, and earn a salary and benefits, just like every other soldier. They will likely also have a positive influence on the soldiers around them, especially as many soldiers look for spiritual guidance during times of war.

For the soldiers, this allows them to see the other side, interact with the hareidim and build bridges across society. Let the hareidim see what the soldiers go through to defend Israel while allowing the soldiers to understand who they are protecting and see the devotion to the spiritual side of the war.

We are all one people, in one country, fighting one war. We are stronger when we are united and the bridges built in the IDF will be passed on and carried through to the next generation of leaders and members of Knesset. Being a divided nation almost cost us once and now is the time to ensure a unified, long lasting undivided nation of Israel where we each take responsibility for each other’s physical and spiritual safety.

If anyone would like to discuss this idea or has other ideas to help bridge the gap, please feel free to email me at

About the Author
Aron is the founder of, a grassroots organization that providing support and nourishment for the families of IDF soldiers, while at the same time supporting local vendors whose businesses are in shatters because of the war.