Message

I’ll leave the abusive words to your imagination. They were delivered through clenched teeth, the anger seeming to drip from the telephone into a rancid puddle on my desk. The long, acrimonious voicemail message played on and on, laden with insults and threats.

Even more striking than the nasty tone, though, was the subject of the call: a statement issued by the Council of Torah Sages calling for prayers and good deeds on behalf of Jews in danger in Israel. No, the caller was no anti-Semite; he was a self-described “Centrist Orthodox” Jew. But yes, what had so exercised him was a summoning of Jews to pray for fellow Jews. Or, to be more specific, the broad nature of the summons: it had not specified soldiers.

The statement, of course, had made no explicit mention either of the Jewish cites and towns that have come under Arab fire, nor of Jews in countries around the world where they or their institutions have been attacked. There was no doubt in my mind that the distinguished rabbis who issued the call considered Jewish soldiers to be prime among the threatened Jews whose safety they asked Jews to prominently include in their prayers. Had the rabbis overestimated some readers, not realized that some might take the lack of specificity as evidence somehow of a lack of concern?

Perhaps. And if so, perhaps any future such summons – may it never be necessary – will make particular mention of the young men fighting on front lines. Certainly, concern for Israeli troops has been voiced by the head of the Council at large Agudath Israel-sponsored public gatherings.

The caller, though, had assumed that the statement implied an unconcern (or worse) about soldiers. After all, he may have reasoned, Agudath Israel does not fly a Jewish nationalistic flag. It must therefore consider the Jewish State’s soldiers to be unworthy. Needless to say, though – or not so needless, apparently – Agudath Israel is deeply invested in the wellbeing of all Jews in the Holy Land – and has special concern for those who, in a war, are most endangered.

But the caller hadn’t called to ask if what he saw as an omission had been intentional. He had assumed it so, and only wanted to share his strong feelings about his (mistaken) conclusion.

I had been here before, I reflected sadly,. Over the almost 15 years I have been privileged to serve Agudath Israel, there have been a number of times when I have witnessed the harshest of judgments passed on the movement by people who made ungenerous assumptions. And who considered us derelict, or worse, for not heartily and automatically endorsing whatever petition, rally or political stance they or others had unilaterally decided the times required.

The caller didn’t leave a name but he did give his telephone number. I dialed it.

He seemed surprised that I had actually called back, and I took advantage of his initial discombobulation to deliver my little speech about how he had assumed wrongly and how therefore his umbrage was ill-conceived. He wasn’t impressed. Finding his voice, he insisted he knew better, that he was absolutely sure the Council of Torah Sages didn’t care about Jews in the Israeli army. Then he launched into a somewhat more muted (though not much) litany of complaints against haredim – how dare we not recite a special prayer composed by the Israeli Rabbinate, how come a haredi rabbi he knows showed lack of concern (he claimed) for a woman whose son was an Israeli soldier, why do haredim (ditto) have such contempt for other Jews…

I tried to get a word or two in edgewise but he clearly considered his questions unanswerable. So I waited until he tired himself out.

Then, in the lull, I thanked him for sharing his perspective and asked him to please consider one final thought. He could accept it, I told him, or reject it, as he saw fit; but please, I implored, at least consider it.

Maybe, I suggested, a great merit for the safety of Jewish soldiers – and Jewish civilians and Jews everywhere, exposed as we are to so many who hate us – lies in our judging one another favorably and not harshly, in our good will toward those with whom we may disagree, even strongly, over some things, even important things.

I was taken aback by the silence that followed. I had read my caller wrong: His mind wasn’t closed shut. He was actually thinking about what I had said. Suddenly I felt embarrassed and, after a few more seconds of no response, thanked my caller for having cared to leave his message. He thanked me for calling back. I told him not to hesitate to call again. And that was that.

It was only when I had hung up that I realized something, and it dawned with a shiver: The majority of the Israeli army fatalities at that point (may there be no more) were the result of “friendly fire” – accidental shooting by their own comrades.

Painful as it is to ponder, sometimes the gravest harm is what we unwittingly visit on ourselves.

© 2009 AM ECHAD RESOURCES

[Rabbi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America.]

All Am Echad Resources essays are offered for publication or sharing without charge,
provided the above copyright notice is appended.

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46 comments to Message

  • tzippi

    For the record, yesterday I participated in a tehillim teleconference led by Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky’s rebbetzin. Rest assured, the inspirational words that prefaced and ended the tehillim recital were very much about the soldiers.

  • jon

    I enjoy reading this blog, but just want to give you a hearty Yasher Koach on this specific posting. I’ve been struggling in my community with “religious wars” and your response is something I’ll keep in my back pocket.
    Have a good Shabbos.

  • Baruch Pelta

    I had been here before, I reflected sadly,. Over the almost 15 years I have been privileged to serve Agudath Israel, there have been a number of times when I have witnessed the harshest of judgments passed on the movement by people who made ungenerous assumptions. And who considered us derelict, or worse, for not heartily and automatically endorsing whatever petition, rally or political stance they or others had unilaterally decided the times required.
    An inspiring observation, Rabbi Shafran!

    We should all be zocheh to not pass the harshest of judgements on those we disagree with, we should be zocheh not make ungenerous assumptions about those Orthodox Jews who think differently than us, and we should be zocheh to not consider all those people who endorse political stances different than the ones we unilaterally require to be derelict!

  • L.Oberstein

    Once again,you are on the mark. “Friendly fire” is an tragic oxymoron . All too often we frum Jews could and would accomplish a lot more if we gave one another the benefit of the doubt. One more point, I have had interaction with several of the gedolim of the previous generation. They were unfailingly kind, considerate and loved all Jews. There are valid points of difference between Religious Zionists, non Zionist Religious, and non relgious Zionists, but , in a pinch, we are all one family. Every real Jew I ever met felt that we are all one family. It is in our genes.

  • mycroft

    I appreciate Rabbi Shafrans thoughts-I hope they reflect the true beliefs of the leaders of his employer and all of their Rabbinic advisory board. Hopwever, there is no doubt that many followers do not have positive viewpoints about what they consider a medinah that in their words is controlled by “reshayim” and “frei” Jews. I am not getting into the debate of a century ago-60 years ago whether or not it would be better or not to have a Jewish state but we have one and I believe that at a minimum more Jews live there currently than in any other country certainly respect for a state that at a minimum tolerates groups that even members of a city council will not stand for the national anthem during a ceremony of a inaugaration of a new mayor, If one sees people not standing still in the middle of Jerusalem for the 2 minutes when the siren sounds on Yom Hazikaron (4 Iyar)it will very likely either be Chareidim or Arabs.
    When I have experienced hearing disinterest -from some who go to well known Yeshivot whose Roshei Yeshiva are members of the Moestzet-on tragedies that happen to frei Jews in Israel. I do not mean to imply about any individual Rabbonim that they necessarily agree with the above actions of their talmidim but it is sadly much more tolerated than they would tolerate one who spoke during shemone esrei.

  • cvmay

    A caustic, abusive, or nasty comment never accomplishes a desired goal.

    “a statement issued by the Council of Torah Sages calling for prayers and good deeds on behalf of Jews in danger in Israel” – Since it is a known fact that those who have/are been enduring the worse of the dangers are the southern residents of Israel and the Israeli soldiers going into battle, WHY NOT JUST SAY IT, rather than ‘on behalf of Jews in danger in Israel’. Much too generic… When davening for cholim we use specifics not generalizations.

    Regarding the fatalities from friendly fire, the Netanel family said to the soldiers who accidently killed their son z”l, “Fatal friendly fire incidents are an unavoidable part of every war and of our ability to defeat the enemy on the battlefield. Yoni went out to war knowing this, and we, his parents, sent him off to war knowing this as well. It was not YOU who hit YOni!… Yoni died for the sanctification of G-D’s name at the time that G-D decided his time on earth had reached its end. You were the PURE angels who had to carry this out. We find comfort in the fact that your pure hands struck at him, and not the defiled hands of our wicked enemy-for Yoni could not have been felled by any impure hand.”

  • mb

    Surely Rabbi Shafran remembers that during the recent Lebanon war.R.Shternbach, the head of Edah Cheredit, refusing to say a prayer for the soldiers as it might indicate that they were supportive of the State.

  • Abe

    Rabbi Shafran, let’s get to the crux of the matter in clear terms. One custom that distinguishes most modern and centrist orthodox congregations from Agudah Kehillas, is the recitation of the Mi Sheberach for Tzahal. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I am unaware of any Agudahs that recite this on a regular basis or even in times of war. If isolated Agudah Kehhilos do recite it, it is certainly not the umbrella organization’s policy to do so. Why not?

    What can be more unifying and altogether appropriate than expressing this collective prayer for the welfare of those specifically on the front lines and most in harm’s way? To say that we are praying for all of our bretheren, inclusive of Tzahal, is not nearly sufficient. When an individual is sick, we make a specific Mi Sheberach for that person to focus our tefillos on the instant need. We should do no less for those whose lives are directly on the line at all times and ever more so in times of war.

    Please articulate the Agudahs view on this critical and timely issue.

  • tzippi

    Mycroft, after the Gaza and Lebanon debacles there are a lot of people who have issues with the government.

    And I forgot to mention the full page ads in Hamodia and Yated from the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, and the emails and posters in “Chareidi” shuls from Rabbi Kook of Rechovot, both initiatives urging people to dedicate zechuyos from learning and prayer to the soldiers.

    I’m not a total ostrich, there’s a way to go; if there weren’t Mashiach might have been here already. But there’s a lot more unity that you might be seeing.

  • Bob Miller

    Regarding the comment by mycroft — January 17, 2009 @ 9:51 pm:

    Mycroft has noted that there are still those who “do not have positive viewpoints about what they consider a medinah that in their words is controlled by ‘reshayim’ and ‘frei’ Jews.”

    They see certain historical truths about the ruling class that still appear to be facts to this day. Mycroft, are these not facts?—or do you mean to suggest that:

    1. the facts exist, but critics should be quiet about it?

    2. the facts exist, but critics should also acknowledge other, more positive facts, as part of a balanced view?

  • aron feldman

    Then he launched into a somewhat more muted (though not much) litany of complaints against haredim – how dare we not recite a special prayer composed by the Israeli Rabbinate

    Do you think the former residents of Gush Katiff or the Jews expelled from the house in Chevron still say Tefilah Le Medinah?

  • Rudy Wagner

    There is a basic difference between an “institution” and the “people” belonging to that institution. You may recognize but not support an institution but still love the people who belong to it. Some charedim are entitled to dislike the value of the Medina and other people/jews should respect it.

    Insinuating that because of this fact charedim don’t like the other jews is just not true. On the contrary pretending that all charedim say a prayer for the Medina/IDF is tantamount in asking them to support the institution itself ie, a sign of intolerance. Unity cannot be built on intolerance.

    I think that the davening/statements by Aguda and other similar charedi bodies reflect very honestly this legitimate point. I live in a charedi neighborhood in Yerushalaim and every single shul says heartfelt tehillim 3 times a day. Main shuls have organized a special public davening on 10 b’tevet for the war. Other posters have highlighted other efforts done by the charedim in this sense.

    Saying that charedim do not care about the well being of the soldiers is just baseless, untrue and… mean!

  • mycroft

    Some of the posts highlight the reasons why it is at least reasonable for the caller of Rabbis Shafran’s vocemessage to have his comments.

    ” after the Gaza and Lebanon debacles there are a lot of people who have issues with the government”

    One does not have to agree with any governmental policy and one can even believe that a policy was dangerous but that does not mean that one should not pray for the success of those defending the country,

    “the facts exist, but critics should be quiet about it?

    2. the facts exist, but critics should also acknowledge other, more positive facts, as part of a balanced view”

    Assuming one believes that the government is “reshayim” that should not mean that one does not pray for the success of those defending the people of the land. Reshayim BTW is language that should not be used against anyone who in their minds are trying to help save the lives of Jews in Israel. I don’t believe one can even dream aboutsaying about any of the leadership of Israel that they do not wish to save lives. Can one disagree with them-very easily but here too unless one believes that in their minds a Jewish state is at best masui rather than rasui one should pray for its defenders
    The sad part is that if chas veshalom the State would suddenly cease to exist and the area controlled by its neighbors and one could only guess about the side affects of that tragedy. Thus, I don’t believe legitimate disputes about policy should prevent open support of those who at a minimum are defending more Jewish residents than are found in any other country. Hakarot hatov is required especially by those groups that in general in general don’t take part in its defense.

  • Chareidi Leumi

    >Do you think the former residents of Gush Katiff or the Jews expelled from the house in Chevron still say Tefilah Le Medinah?

    I can not speak for those expelled from Chevron but I live in a community with about 300 families from Gush Katif and the vast majority still say the prayer (some obviously don’t). If I would have to put forth a guess, I would say that in my communitee about 5% have stopped saying the prayer.

  • SL

    It is easy to find the negatives in any group or organization. If someone truly has an issue, I respectfully suggest they make an appointment with one of the members of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah and speak with that rav. They are all accessible. Similarly, one can meet with the rav maligned in an above post and discuss sensitive issues with that rav .. but alas, it is easier to publicly criticize a rav from the Eidah Chareidis (hiding behind a screenname) rather than discussing sensitive topics with this rav–as I have done.

    Anyone who has been reading the synopses of what Rav Moshe Sternbuch shlita has been saying in his Friday night shiurim in Har Nof (being summarized in HaModia the past few weeks, in their Wednesday edition) would realize that the perspective of this gadol, along with many others, is that we are potentially very close to Mashiach’s arrival. We need to recognize Hashem’s guidance and control of affairs.

    May I respectfully suggest that in a battle, being overly negative is at best a distraction. There is a time and place for constructive criticism. Each battalion in an army has different tasks. It would be absurd for an engineering corps to tell the paratroopers how to do their job. The airforce has its own perspective. And, frankly, foot soldiers do not share the perspective of the battlefield held by those with a much broader view. Yet, there has to be an underlying sense of working together to have any real chance of success.

    Perhaps the task of Agudath Israel differs from that of the religious Zionists. Yet we can all work together for klal Yisroel.

    Let’s be positive for a change, and find the strengths of one another, and publicize those, while privately engaging in constructive criticism and dialogue. The rabbanim, poskim, and gedolim are accessible to us. When they decide on something publicly, let’s close ranks. And those of us who are troubled by their decision(s) can seek private counsel.

  • SL

    I wonder if the person above who felt free to publicly criticize one of the leading rabbis of our era would also criticize the military tactics of this or that Israeli general. Also, I wonder why those who are troubled by the decisions and viewpoints of members of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah do not meet with these rabbis to discuss their concerns, but rather choose such indirect methods — including public comments on the internet — to voice their concerns.

  • sima irkodesh

    “the facts exist, but critics should also acknowledge other, more positive facts, as part of a balanced view?”
    OF COURSE, there are many issues to have hakarot hatov for.

    “Do you think the former residents of Gush Katiff or the Jews expelled from the house in Chevron still say Tefilah Le Medinah?”
    The officers and combat soldiers in Gaza are religious young man, a large majority from Yehuda, Shomron and ex Gaza. Many returned to their homes for the first time in Netzarim, Nvei Dekelim, Atzmona, etc. – they say the tefillah daily for “Chayalai Tzahal” and a tefilah for a medinah of torah, yireat shamayim and ahavat haeretz.

  • Jewish Observer

    Let me voice the politically incorrect statement here:

    While it is unfounded and even sinister to imply that Agudah has any disdain or lack of concern for soldiers, chas veshalom, I do find RAS’s stance a bit disingenuous. I respect these rabbonim enough to think it WAS with kavonah that the word soldiers was not used, as, lema’aseh, that is unPC in haredi culture. Think about all the abuse thatr Rav STeinman suffered for his pro Nachal Haredi stance. The act is, I can’t imagine these gedolim talking about the welfare of Jews in, say, NJ without singling out the lomdei torah in Lakewood. So, the diyuk is a o correct one. The art here, hovever, is to know how to read the right message into the diyuk, not to chas veshalom accuse good people of not caring about the soldiers.

    Have I offended everyone yet?

    Love,

    JO

  • YM

    Just like the Agudah is not RZ, Rav Shternbach and the Edah Cheredis are not the Agudah.

  • Naftali

    I am certain that all Jews, including (if not especially Charedim) pray in some form or another for the welfare of our soldiers and are pained by any IDF casualties. As for the specific issue of the Mi Sheberach for IDF soldiers, the sorry truth is that public prayer is frequently just a form of politics by another means, addressed more to fellow Jews than to HKBH. I am sure that Charedim would recite the Mi Sheberach if they thought G-d was listening and that it might help.

  • dovid

    There is the medina, and we have issues with the medina, and Tzahal is an agency of the medina. But the soldiers and officers, they are acheinu bnei Israel. Rav Shach cried and sobbed at the news of a collision of two helicopters that resulted in the death of more than 70 soldiers. Rabbi Chaim Shmulewitz zt”l writes that the soldiers fighting our battles have the din of of harugei Lod, individuals who admitted to a crime they did not commit in order to shield the community from the decree of the ruling powers.

    The current Bostoner Rebbe, may Hashem give him health, in conjunction with Rav Simcha Kook revived the practice of non-combatants davening for the combatants. Ask for a name of a soldier from maortlmo@gmail.com and daven for this soldier as if he was your father, son, brother, husband who right now is crawling into a booby-trapped, abandoned Arab house in Jenin, while Hamas snipers have caught his profile in the crosshair of their rifle.

  • Yehoshua Friedman

    L. Oberstein wrote:
    There are valid points of difference between Religious Zionists, non Zionist Religious, and non relgious Zionists, but , in a pinch, we are all one family. Every real Jew I ever met felt that we are all one family. It is in our genes.

    My question is whether we can reach more of the non-religious, non-Zionist Jews who are getting closer and closer in their sympathies to the enemy.

  • Rocco Lampone

    Many people, myself included, interpret the omission of ‘chayalim’ as a result of Agudah trying to be as generic and ‘eccumincal'; and used language that the ‘kanoyim’ will not find offense. The omission was not percieved by many as unintentional(and therefore, for the sake of clarity, it should have been expressed). Do the MO ever omit mention of chayalim? They definitely can otherwise hide behind the ‘omission because it was unnecessary to mention’ argument.
    In other words, the omission of ‘chayalim’ was part of a boilerplate language that is analagous to ‘tzur yisroel’ that they wrote at the begining of the medinah.

  • barry

    Abe (#8):
    While I am a staunch MO, I recently attended an Agudath Israel shul where that tefilla–for soldiers, but not the medina–was recited clearly and distinctly by the Rav of the shul, a Rav whose rightist credentials are unassailable. I was pleasantly taken aback and assured that this tefilla is, r”l, recited there every week.
    So there’s at least one such place…and likely many more.

  • Ak

    Hi,
    I don’t doubt the caring and the concern of those that called for tehillim to be said because of the war situation , but the generic nature not mentioning soldiers and residents of the south did disturb , why not be specific as we are for cholim. These ommisions were very apparent in the frum press that I was reading here in Israel.

    I felt better when I read about Rav Lefkovitz’s call for us not to think of ourselves but to think and be noseih b’ol chaveiro of the soldiers fighting in Gaza and the dangers they were in , and the residents of the south.

    A magid shiur commented to me that he felt connected to the war because one of the learners was fighting on the front. I think that connection is missing in the chareidi community , not saying the prayer for chayalei Tzahal does not help either. Instead of saying the nusuach of the tefiloh one could say a regular mi’shebeirach during the leining.

    The omissions and generic nature of the call and chareidi newspapers left a bad taste in my mouth

    AK

  • L. Oberstein

    For those who still think the non zionist frum world doesn’t care about the soldiers, read this from the weekly bulletin by Rav Yaakov Hopfer of Shearith israel Congregation .

    Thoughts From Our Rav
    The following was given to me, found in a short article in the Israeli press. I would like to pass it on to you.
    Four IDF soldiers were killed by friendly fire in two incidents in Gaza last Monday – and the parents of some of them want to embrace their comrades who accidentally killed them. Over the weekend, with the seven-day mourning period drawing to a close, the parents of St.-Sgt. Nitai Stern and Capt. Yoni Netanel sent messages to the soldiers whose fire accidentally killed their sons. On Friday, Rabbi Amos Netanel and his wife Malki phoned two of the tank crew members who fired on a building in which the soldiers were taking refuge. In addition, they wrote them a letter full of love and encouragement: “Dear tank crew #… of Company …. of Regiment …, who are fighting night and day with valor and self-sacrifice on behalf of our nation and land. “We know that our son Yoni fell as part of the great military campaign at the hands of our own forces. We feel a deep inner need to tell you, with all of our life-strengths, that we love you and embrace you tightly. “Fatal friendly fire incidents are an unavoidable part of every war and of our ability to defeat the enemy on the battlefield. Yoni went out to war knowing this, and we, his parents, sent him off to war knowing this as well. “It was not you who hit Yoni! “Yoni died for the Sanctification of G-d’s Name at the time that G-d decided his time on earth had reached its end. You were the pure angels who had to carry this out. “We find comfort in the fact that your pure hands struck at him, and not the defiled hands of our wicked enemy – for Yoni could not have been felled by any impure hand. “It is important for us to tell you that we love you with all the warmth of our hearts, you are like our own children… Please, we ask you, keep up the same great spirit that beat in Yoni’s heart – the spirit of faith, of strength, daring and love, and we will then know that Yoni continues to live forever within you.” The letter concludes with a request that they come to visit “so that we can embrace you,” and was signed by Yoni’s parents, his wife Tziona, and their 3-month-old daughter Maayan. The parents of Nitai Stern are similarly concerned for the soldiers who caused their son’s death. “We have an obligation and the privilege to embrace them,” said his mother Sarah. “There is no war without mishaps like this. We want them to come to us and be part of us. We lost a son, and I won’t let any additional mothers lose their own sons to depression or sadness.” How can our hearts not be filled with emotion and our eyes with tears at the preciousness and specialness of our brethren!

    A Gutten Shabbos,
    Yaakov Hopfer

  • Joel Rich

    A magid shiur commented to me that he felt connected to the war because one of the learners was fighting on the front. I think that connection is missing in the chareidi community , not saying the prayer for chayalei Tzahal does not help either
    ==================================

    Thought Experiment – would R’AS get such calls if the segment of the population represented by the Moetzet was represented in Tzahal (and from whom would the calls come from if soldiers weren’t mentioned)? (side point – if this were the case, I think the soldiers would get specific mention as much as the rabbi, gabboim and the shul president do in misheberachs but would be interested if others disagree)
    KT

  • Jewish Observer

    Withh all due respect and advance mechilah requested, I think that Rabbi Oberstein, sheltered in the Baltimore world, may not realize that Rabbi Hopfer’s stance is not representrative of the posture of normative haredi culture. My wife, who teaches in a haredi school in north Jersey, was surprised that no one stopped her from talking about the war in Israel. What does this tell you about the (at least perceived) state of the culture?

  • L Oberstein

    My question is whether we can reach more of the non-religious, non-Zionist Jews who are getting closer and closer in their sympathies to the enemy.

    Comment by Yehoshua Friedman — January 19, 2009 @ 3:38 pm

    Here is your answer:

    An IDF rabbi shared this personal testimony…

    I had the privilege this week of accompanying the Golani Brigade’s Regiment 12 soldiers. I am the regiment’s rabbi, in reserves, and I was called up to serve just like the all the rest, to “aid Israel at its time of tribulation.”
    As a long-time ba’al-teshuvah [returnee to observant Judaism], a rabbi in a yeshiva who usually walks around wearing a jacket and hat, I now had a major change of atmosphere: my black “uniform” became one of dusty dark green, the hubbub of the Torah study hall was replaced by not-so-pleasing army slang, and my wife’s delicious food was given up for the “delicacies” of the mess hall, most of which I don’t eat because of one stringency or another.
    We spent most of the week in wet tents, with the terrible cold preventing me from sleeping at night. (I apparently wasn’t working as hard as the other soldiers, because they fell asleep the second they hit the pillow).
    My work, as an official of the Army Rabbinate, was to give encouragement and strength20to the soldiers, give out Books of Psalms [Tehillim] and distribute special prayers for those who go out to battle.
    Psalms for All
    And what did I discover down there in southern Israel? My brothers! The Golanchiks (Golani Brigade soldiers), about to go out to war, want to hold on to the Rock of Israel! There wasn’t a soldier there who didn’t equip himself with a Tehillim in his pocket or combat vest – but the big surprise we had was when we gave out tzitzit [four-cornered shirt with the required ritual fringes attached], usually only the yeshiva guys take them, but this time, every soldier there seemed to want one!
    “Rabbi, bring me some tzitzit, my whole tent wants.” “Hey, achi [my brother], take one of these, it’s better than the ceramic vest!” These were the types of calls we kept hearing over and over. Every package of tzizit that we opened was snatched up within seconds.
    There was one young fighter who came to the synagogue whose face fell when he heard that there were no tzitzit left. He was totally bereft, until one of the officers who wasn’t going out to battle took off his own tzitzit and gave it to him, saying, “Take it, achi (in the Golani you can’t say something without achi), you need it now more than I do.”

    The Ma’ariv, evening prayer of Friday night, was simply unbelievable. The Rabbinate realized that the synagogue was too small to fit all the hundreds of soldiers, and so it turned the soccer field into an impromptu synagogue, with prayerbooks, Holy Ark, and everything else.
    Whoever did not take part in that Kabbalat Shabbat [Sabbath Welcoming] service, is like one who never took part in a Kabbalat Shabbat service in his life! Almost the entire Golani Brigade, officers and soldiers, yelling out the Kaddish and Tehillim prayers. If it wasn’t for the uniform I was wearing, I could have almost thought that I was at a Yom Kippur service in one of the large yeshivot!
    No Questions Asked
    Our loving Father, too, was there, enjoying every minute of His sons gathering around Him. Our Father doesn’t ask, “Where have you been until now? Why do you remember Me just when you go out to war?” He welcomes all His children and embraces them with love.
    After the Sabbath meal, held in an atmosphere of a great “high,” we were privileged to be able to hold an Oneg Shabbat for the soldiers. Chief IDF Rabbi Avi Ronsky was with us the whole Sabbath, and he warmed our hearts with stories of the Nation of Israel, on compassion, on brotherly love, and more. We sat outside with cake and sunflower seeds in the cold, but inside our hearts it was warm.
    During the Sabbath, we had to travel to the places from where the soldiers would leave for Gaza. We arrived and the soldiers were imbued with combat spirit, getting ready, trying to get in a last cigarette. Many soldiers tried very hard not to smoke that Sabbath, after I explained to them the importance of observing the Sabbath. They would come up to me every five minutes and ask if the Sabbath had ended yet.
    We prayed Ma’ariv there, recited Havdalah [the Sabbath-ending blessing] over grape juice, a lighter [instead of a candle] and an orange [in place of spices]. And then it was time to go in. The Regiment Commander gathered everyone for last-minute words of strength, and explained to them about the “corrective experience” we were about to impart to the enemy.
    When he finished, the Deputy Commander read aloud the prayer before going out to battle. “Repeat after me,” he ordered, and a whole regiment of hundreds of soldiers yelled out, “Ana Hashem hoshia na! Ana Hashem hatzlicha na! [O G-d, save us! O G-d, grant us success!]” After the prayer, the Deputy Commander asked me to blow the Shofar, just as thousands of years ago when we conquered the Holy Land.
    Perfect Coordination
    Though I’ve blown the Shofar in public before, this particular time was something that will remain with me my whole life. And then, as if I and the Israel Air Force were in perfect coordination, the very second that I finished blowing the Shofar, our planes bombed the enemy area, as if it were a signal to begin the ground offensive.
    The soldiers lined up in two columns, and as I parted from them with handshakes, I thought to myself, “What a special nation we have! This is how a Jewish army looks as it goes out to war – not with boastful ‘We will win’ stickers, but rather ‘We will win with G-d’s help.'”
    No Dispute
    I will just end by saying that where I live in Modi’in Illit, we have a clever interpretation of the verse ‘G-d’s voice is powerful’ – the word for power is spelled with the letters kaf and chet, which we say are the initials of kova and chalifa [hat and suit], our usual garb. But as of this week, we now know that they are also the initials of the kumta chuma [brown beret] worn by the Golani soldiers. There, too, the voice of G-d is heard – and “lo pligi” (there is no argument between the two, both are right).
    Shabbat Shalom!!
    Allen Sausen
    Tel: 561 374 9813
    alsausen@gmail.com

  • avi

    I was that caller you should have mentioned the idf. The fact remains that a prominent agudaf rav refused to say the tefliah for the idf when a mother of a child who was in leb asked hom to. We then went to a chabad shul wee they happly said it

  • tzvee

    “Maybe, I suggested, a great merit for the safety of Jewish soldiers – and Jewish civilians and Jews everywhere, exposed as we are to so many who hate us – lies in our judging one another favorably and not harshly, in our good will toward those with whom we may disagree, even strongly, over some things, even important things.”

    And thus in the spirit of your own statement, the time has come for you and your sages to recognize and embrace the State of Israel as the first flowering of our redemption and the specifically endorse the prayer for the State and the prayer for the IDF in all of your synagogues.

  • shaul

    The piece included in the newsletter of Rabbi Y. Hopfer circulated throughout the Charedei news media, blogs, yeshivos and school blogs, and for good reason.
    Presently the newest innovation in the yeshiva curriculum is teaching Emunah and Bitachon (a sleeper subject over the last several years), an essential limud for every oved hashem. While teaching this subject textually from chovos halivavos works, dotting the inyun with stories, events and episodes provides a lasting memory. We can utilize stories from the past, while some to the best examples of emunah and bitachon is found among the ‘toshevai eretz yisroel’. What Rabbi Hopfer is emphasizing in this piece it the enormous Emunah that upholds the Netanel family, that it happens to be about chayalim–kol hakavod.

  • Ak

    Hi,

    I checked the nusach out with My Rov , asked if I was being oversensitive about the omission of the words soldiers- he replied that he also picked this up and it is not the style and language his Rov Reb Chaim Smulevitz would have used referring to soldiers. He said that language was very problematic in his eyes and preferred not to talk about it.

  • Peri G

    During the Gaza war my sister, who lives in Ashdod, happened to be in the US. She was on the phone with her husband and children five six times a day. I was aware of every missile that fell in Ashdod,where it fell and how it affected the people of Ashdod. I would have been aware to a certain extent in any case because after all my sister lives in Ashdod, but now because she was here I was even more aware. If you have a brother/sister/son/daughter or even cousin living in a dangerous area you are aware of what is going on there and you care. If you have a son/brother/father/cousin/friend in the Israeli Army you are also more aware of what is going on and you naturally care more. Most of the Chareidi world of this generation do not have first degree relatives or friends in the army. Therefore they naturally feel and identify less with what is going on. Saying a Tefillah specifically for the soldiers in the army would help Chareidim feel more for our soldiers in danger. Saying a generic Tefillah doesn’t accomplish the same thing. The Bostoner Rebbe and Rav Simcha Kook have done a wonderful thing connecting our Charedi Yeshiva boys and girls etc.with the Chayalim at the front (through davening for specific soldiers). Let us hope that more things like this can be done to bring more Acdus to Klal Yisroel.

  • Natan Slifkin

    Why not judge this caller favorably? It wasn’t ridiculous for him to think that the Gedolim/Charedim don’t care about soldiers. One of the leading Gedolim in Bnei Brak spoke out against the “Adopt-a-Soldier” initiative of the Bostoner Rebbe and Rav Kook. In his speech he said the following:

    “The problem is with the approach – that the yeshiva bochurim say “they are moser nefesh for us, so this is what we do for them” To make a partnership? To act as if there is a connection between our camp and the hiloni camp? That is treif! …Another problem with Adopt a Soldier is that they say “they are being moser nefesh for us.” That is not true! If you would go to the soldiers, not during war, and ask for 20 shekels for the yeshiva and for those learning torah in poverty, would they run to give it to you like they are running to fight in Gaza? For sure not! So 20 shekels they won’t give you, but their lives they will!!?? Of course they are giving themselves up and being moser nefesh, but it is not for us! ….”

    Now, clearly this view is not shared by everyone. However, it is prominent enough for this caller to have had reason for his complaint.

  • joel rich

    R’ Natan(35),
    compare to sichot mussar R’ Chaim Shmulevitz 2000 edition with the added lregel hamatzav where he compares the defenders of Israel (73 war vintage) to harugei lud (4th row aisle seats in olam haba)

    KT

  • Albie

    I think it’s pretty clear that what the writer was referring
    to was the angry tone of the call, not the caller’s question,
    which Rabbi Shafran answered (even if some here didn’t like
    the answer). As someone on the Agudah’s -e-mail list, I can
    tell you that, in addition to the Moetzes statement (which I
    was told was drafted before the ground war even started), they
    sent out Rav Kook and the Bostoner Rebbe’s offer of
    soldier-partnering, urging Agudah people to take advantage of
    it. How does that square with some of the negative
    asumptions in some of the comments above?

    The point of Rabbi Shafran’s article was totally lost on many
    of the posters here. The point isn’t whether or not you wish
    the Moetzes had worded their statement differently, or whether
    you like the non-Zionist stance of charedi Jews. It was that
    we all have to judge one another favorably (and no, Tzvee,
    that doesn’t mean adopting everyone else’s hashkafos – I hope
    you have ahavas yisroel for Satmarers, but no one
    insists that you adopt their views). It’s a shame that most of the
    discussion here isn’t about that important topic at all. It’s
    very needed here.

    Albie

  • sima irkodesh

    Dear Nathan Slifkin and Joel Rich,
    The question that must be asked if WHY did R. Chaim Shmulevitz worldview include with ahuvah individuals who are physically moser nefesh for klal yisroel while R. E. Weintraub has a completely insular status of klal yisroel? When the answer is defined……..the solution for proper chinuch will have be found.

  • Michoel

    RE the comments of Natan Slifkin and Joel Rich:
    It may not have been ridiculous for the writer to think that the Gedoim do not care about the soldiers, but it was definitely assur al pi din to ASSUME this and get all angry about it. And even if he had read the words of Rav Weintraub, he still would not be justified in assuming a lack of concern for the soldiers because Rav Weintraub did not express that. Rav Weintraub writes: “The problem is with the approach – that the yeshiva bochurim say “they are moser nefesh for us, so this is what we do for them”. He is quite correct that there is an over-enthusiasm for the the idea of the davening for soldiers program. One senses that some bochurim feel relieved of guilt to be able to give something back. But the proper attitude should be that lomdei Torah are holding up the universe as is, even without the davening program. And I think that this is what Rav Weintraub finds objectionable.

    Bringing a raya from Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz doesn’t hold a tremendous amount of water. When people realize the greatness of lomdei Torah, it is appropriate to tell them “You need to realize how holy the soldiers are”. When people are begging for relief from inappropriate guilt feelings, it is appropriate to tell them “You need to realize how holy YOU are”. (Yes, I agree that the approaches of Rav Chaim and Rav Weintraub would be somewhat different even if both would be speaking in 2009, but I don’t attach the significance that Joel attaches)

  • Adam

    Beautiful post from Rav Sausen (#26). I had tears in my eyes.
    I have tears in my eyes when I read of the venom to which Rav Shafran was subjected.
    I have tears in my eyes when I read or hear of some of the indifference or even antipathy SOME in the Chareidi world seem to demonstrate to those Jews who are fighting and risking their lives.
    I have tears in my eyes when Jews from all shades of the spectrum forget that there are: ‘shivim panim l’torah'; ‘kol yosrael yesh lahem helek l’olam habah’ and ‘kol yisrael areivoim zeh lazeh’.

    Can we just love one another – no-one else does!

  • Adam

    p.s. any chance of getting a virtual Hebrew keyboard on the website – th transliteration is soooo tedious :-)

  • joel rich

    R’ Michoel(39),
    1. anger – I assume this was a general comment not associated with my response?
    2 It would be interesting to see how many of the listners to the shmooze read your nuanced interpretation into the shmooze
    3.one can always differentiate (or not hold water), I’ll let those more knowledgable than me decide whether R’CS would have said the shmooze today.

    KT

  • Ak

    Hi,

    I am not questioning the concern for the welfare of the soldiers and people of the south. But it is the lack of ha’caras ha’tov – it is possible to delegitmize any act of chesed by saying , they were doing it for them selves. My Rov here in Israel commented – My Rov is R Chayim Smulevitz – he said bring me a soldier so I can kiss him. Hakaras Hatov should not interfere with the value of lomdei Torah. By emphazing doverning for soldiers and learning for them even more we can both show hakaras Hatov and acknowlege the war is essentially been fought in the beis Medrash. There is no s’tirah. Guilt feelings are good to inspire people to act on them , more hakaras hatov , more doverning , more learning. Getting rid of these feelings by delegitimizing the soldiers is not the way. he could say the battle is being fought both in the beis medrash and on the battlefield , every one has a part to play and every one must play his part. Of course there was also great kiddush hashem by the many frum soldiers as seen from the IDF Rav post , also hearing mincha being doverned while taking refuge in some building in the middle of the war. To describe the army as a pure ‘ chiloni camp ‘ not only disassociates one from many of klal yisroel but the many frum soldiers who fought and also died in the war. It is aquestion of chinuch.
    Ak

    Ak

  • Shades of Grey

    The larger problem is how to deal with statements of gedolie Torah which, upon first glance, strike the listener as bizarre and puzzling. Since one can list a number of such statements over the past few years, it might make sense to form a general approach.

    The first point would be to make sure that the statements are in the proper context, and are not misquoted by the secular press, or even by well-meaning Charedi sources. The second point is to try to understand them in context: I believe that this statement of R. Weintraub, shlita, can be justified in context, just as seemingly extreme statements of the Satmar Rav zt’l on the State of Israel.

    It is interesting to reread the Mishpacha article by Jonathan Rosenblum, written in August, 2004(“A Disease In Search of a Cure”) concerning this type of situation, linked below:

    “Those who make a business of providing the secular media with tips of piquant stories that place the chareidi world and its leaders in a bad light are a disease, but they are not a disease without a cure. Whether they operate from the courtyards of gedolim, or from the chareidi press, or independently, it is about time that we ferreted them out and exposed them to the public scorn they so richly deserve.”

    I believe that the above has changed since the internet. In the post-internet age anyone can copy a “puzzling” statement of a gadol, or the latest Kol Koreh from Meah Shearim or Bnei Brak and disseminate it anonymously.

    I think one can only appeal to people’s “yiras shomayim” to be responsible in how they choose to act, rather than the possibility of “ferreted them out”. Also, since there are no secrets anymore, one can try to publicly deal, head-on, with the “puzzling” statements in a sophisticated way, as some have tried to do on the thread here. Perhaps there also needs to be a greater responsibility on the charedi press; not every speech of a gadol needs to be publicized.

  • Ori

    Shades of Grey: Perhaps there also needs to be a greater responsibility on the charedi press; not every speech of a gadol needs to be publicized.

    Ori: Wouldn’t the responsibility be on the gdolim themselves? Aren’t they supposed to be the ones with the best judgment?

  • Shades of Grey

    Ori,

    I actually think a bit like you, but tried to word it respectfully.

    The fact is also that the press is sometimes at fault, as I think happened regarding a statement disseminated, which I don’t think was intended for public consumption, following a tragedy last year in Israel.

    I also note that Jonathan Rosenblum, in “Price of Disunity”(Cross Currents, 1/4/09), focused on the lack of professional staff of organized community life, as compared to the American Aguda:

    “We totally lack a professional staff to help provide the gedolei Torah with the best possible information prior to their decision-making and with the ability to execute their directives”