Yankel ZT”L

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[Rabbi Dovid Landesman is a veteran mechanech and the mechaber of a sefer on Netziv.]

Today – Yom ha-Zikaron L’chayalei Tzahal – is one of the most difficult days for me in the calendar year. Every year the day accentuates the fact that I am really not sure who I am – a chareidi, a chardalnik, a dati leumi. Truthfully, my lifestyle and more certainly that of my children, would cast me in the first group. However, while I served in the IDF and did miluim for almost twenty-five years, I am in many ways a proponent of the Eidah ha-Chareidis, for I respect their uncompromising fealty to halachah and their intense efforts to achieve kirvat Hashem.

But, today, when a significant portion of am yisrael mourns the chayalim who gave their lives enabling a Jewish community to be built and thrive in Eretz Yisrael, I find myself angry – nay, overwhelmingly perturbed – by the fact that the overwhelming majority of chareidi Jews ignore this day. It is not my intention to debate whether or not a non-halachic state has any standing. Rather, I simply wonder what happened to elementary hakarat ha-tov. I can accept that standing at attention while a siren blares might not be an appropriate form of public mourning, but how many b’nai Torah are learning mishnayot today?

Let me tell you a little about my friend Yankel zt”l and perhaps you’ll understand my frustrations. Yankel Friedman was a chavrusa of mine in Yeshivat Beit HaTalmud in Yerushalayim. As a ben yeshiva who fit the criteria of Torato um’nato, Yankel was officially qualified to receive a deferment from service in the IDF. But Yankel was uncomfortable with the idea of someone serving in his place and he was never quite sure that his hasmada was adequate enough to really free him from service. Make no mistake, Yankel was a true ben Torah, but he had a conscience that gave him no rest.

Yankel often spoke of his dilemma with the rosh yeshiva, Rav Dov Schwartzman shlita, and together they came up with a plan. Yankel enrolled at Yeshivat ha-Kotel and was officially made part of the hesder unit there. He continued to learn in Beis ha-Talmud and only joined the ha-Kotel boys when they went onto active duty. These types of quiet arrangements were not unusual in the late 60s and early 70s – quite a few boys from Chevron made similar arrangements with the knowledge and co-operation of Rav Yechezkel Sarna zt”l. Yankel finished his hesder service in June 1973 and returned to learn full time in Beis ha-Talmud. In the summer of that year he became a chasan and his wedding was scheduled to take place on Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan.

Yankel was extremely active in Peylim and in Elul of 1973, I accompanied him on a trip to Tzfat to encourage teenagers to register in dati schools. We spent the day visiting families throughout the city, and at about 11:30 we were ready to leave and travel back to Yerushalayim. As we got into my car, Yankel told me that he wanted to detour through Akko as he needed to visit a family there. I told him that we would only get there at about 12:30 and it wasn’t right to visit someone at that time. Yankel smiled and said, “you’re right but I need to pick up my watch.” I looked at him like he was crazy but he simply said: “You’ll understand when we get there.” I suggested that we call ahead from a pay phone, but Yankel told me that the family had no telephone.

We drove to Akko, arriving close to 1:00. As we pulled up in front of the house, I noticed that all the lights were on and the entire family was waiting outside. The mother and father grabbed Yankel and smothered him with kisses, and led us inside where they had set a lavish meal for us. There was no way that we could refuse to eat, so I found myself enjoying a true seudat melachim in the middle of the night. When we finished, one of the daughters – about 16 or 17 by my estimate – approached Yankel and gave him a box with a magnificent gold watch. Yankel thanked her and put the watch on his wrist, got up from the table and motioned to me that we could leave. He said not a word to the parents about the watch, simply said goodnight and that he would stay in touch.

When we got back into the car, I asked Yankel to explain. He told me that the watch was a present from his kallah. I asked him how the girl got it and he explained that two weeks earlier, he had visited the family in Akko and had spent hours trying to convince the 16 year old daughter to transfer into a religious high school. The girl had told him that while she was open to the idea of learning about religion, she did not feel that she was capable of keeping Shabbat as would be demanded by the school. Yankel told her that he was convinced that she could and offered her a deal; if she could not make it through a Shabbos, he would give her his watch as a gift. The young girl agreed and had left him a message that week in the Peylim office that he should come to Akko and take back the watch because she had managed not to be m’chalel Shabbat as he had predicted.

I asked Yankel if his kallah knew about the story and he admitted that he had not told her, adding that if I opened up my mouth, he would break every bone in my body.

On Yom Kippur 1973, Yankel’s hesder unit was called up. He was davening in the yeshiva but when he heard the sirens, he realized that war had broken out. He left after Minchah and went to the Old City to meet up with his group from Yehivat ha-Kotel. On erev Simchas Torah, Yankel’s tank was hit as they crossed the Suez Canal under the command of Arik Sharon. Yankel’s tank was the second to cross and as it drove onto the pontoon bridge, an Egyptian shell hit the tread, disabling the tank. Another shell hit the closed turret, jamming it so that it could not be opened.

The stalled tank held up the tanks behind which were now sitting ducks for the intense Egyptian artillery fire. Standard IDF operating procedueres in these circumstances is for the tank behind to push the disabled tank out of the way. Yankel’s tank was pushed off the bridge into the Suez Canal where he and three fellow soldiers drowned.

I think of Yankel often, although not as often as I should. I wonder where he got the kochot ha-nefesh to be the person that he was. I think of other soldiers who fell – some with stories of extraordinary heroism and mesirat nefesh and some anonymous to me. I am not here to give mussar, I am here only to ask that you think about Yankel and thereby bring an aliyah to his neshama.

Chaval al d’avdin v’lo mishtachnin.

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44 Responses

  1. Moshe Hillson says:

    There is a Mishna in Tractate Me’ila (probably last chapter) which reinforces R Landesman’s comment # 13:

    If one consecrates (one’s private) garbage dump, all the refuse that already was in the dump at the moment of consecration is “holy” (Hekdesh – forbidden to benefit from it before “buying it back” from the Temple Treasury). When I learned that Mishna, I thought: “Yes, its monetary value is concecrated, but it’s still forbidden to say or think Torah next it it (if some of the trash exudes an obnoxious odor)”.

    This shows that issues are not all black or all white – there are positive and negative sides to everything.

    By the way, are you the same Rav Landesman who once wrote a piece in “Jewish Woman’s Outlook Magazine” (a long-defunct publication) titled “More Machmir Than Thou”?

  2. cvmay says:

    Thank you R. Dovid Landesman for sharing your experiences, ahavas yisroel and ahavas eretz yisroel with the Cross Current readership. We (I am speaking for many) would appreciate hearing from you more often.

  3. dovid says:

    cvmay, I read my comment dated May 6 @ 10:40 AM several times and want to apologize. It projects a holier-than-thou attitude that I need to continuously watch against. The last sentence should read: So what do we learn from this? That in life, we should act as if everything depended on us while knowing full well that the outcome of our acts is in HaShem’s hands.

  4. dovid landesman says:

    (1) Israel’s secular society and its various institutions accept charedim as long as they “go with the flow”, i.e., don’t observe Shabbos, are not fastidious about פרצות, about sanctity of life, if they ignore kashrus when it’s inconvenient, and generally adopt the mores of the secular world around us … Dovid

    Baruch Hashem, my experiences in walking the tightrope between secular and chareidi society was completely different. Yes there are exrremely serious problems – in 25 years of miluim I never ate a cooked meal in the army unless I made it myself and most of my service was in outpost in the Golan or on the Lebanese border. That said, I can tell you that my mefakdim and fellow soldiers went out of their way to do whatever they could to make my service tenable.
    As a case in point, I am still grateful to a ktzin aspakah [supply officer] in the Golan who during shemittah drove through the night so that he could bring me vegetables in a sealed bag with a Badatz hashgachah! IMHO, yachas gorer yachas and when the soldiers with whom I served realized that I was serious and was not attempting to avoid duty, they demonstrated great respect. The subjects of conversations changed when I walked into the public areas and even the hard-core Ashkenazim [the Sefardim were always anxious to impress me as to how religious they really were] were more than co-operative. In truth, there were many times when ridiculous situations came up as a result of their ignorance. I once entered the dining hall of a outpost in the Golan on a Friday night in order to make kiddush – the army supplies grape juice – and eat the canned food I had been given for Shabbos [the glatt kosher field rations were absolutely inedible]. One of the soldiers got up and told me that he would turn the television set off so that I could make kiddush. I told him not to, for I knew that it would immediately be turned back on which would have resulted in another act of chilul Shabbos. He could not understand so I finally told him that in my home the minhag was to make kiddush with the television on.
    I could go on and on, but instead will close with a thesis. The animosity of the chiloni world to the chareidi tzibbur is directly proportionate to the strength of the individual perception that we – the chareidim – are parasites and have no sense of responsibility for the success of the national experiment. While the various charedi contributions to the general welfare – Yad Sarah, Ezer Mitzion, Zaka and Hatzalah et al – temper this somewhat, it is still a common perception, fed for sure by the bias of the media, but also sustained by the inept politicians who represent us and are so clearly sectarian in their point of view. The latter fault is correctable; however, given the manner in which candidates are chosen at present, does not seem to be high on the agenda of those in charge.

  5. dovid says:

    “groups that assisted Israelis during the last Lebanon war”

    I persist in the claim (easily verifiable) that the Charedi charitable organizations in Israel (and abroad) have been active in a quiet way, which is their hallmark, long before, as well as after the Lebanon war.

    In a Midrash, Shimon ben Pazi considers the verse in the Chumash “One sheep you shall offer in the morning and the second sheep in the afternoon” as defining the essence of Torah. Judaism is not only about a moving Yom Kippur experience, a moving sermon, a war, or a memorial ceremony that result in a one-time emotional flare-up. It is the dedication of ordinary people to carry HaShem’s will through daily ordinary acts. “One sheep you shall offer in the morning and the second sheep in the afternoon”

  6. dovid says:

    “….charedim are voluntarily self-segregated out of Israeli society.”

    For good reasons: (1) Israel’s secular society and its various institutions accept charedim as long as they “go with the flow”, i.e., don’t observe Shabbos, are not fastidious about פרצות, about sanctity of life, if they ignore kashrus when it’s inconvenient, and generally adopt the mores of the secular world around us such as dirty language, putdown comments, etc. In these circumstances, all that’s left for us to do is to stay away from the mainstream Israeli society. Rabbi Yisrael Belsky, Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshiva Torah V’Daas told over that sons of several charedi neighbors of his in the Kensington area in Brooklyn, fired by sincere patriotic feelings, joined the IDF, but got out of it as soon as they could help it. They said that the amount of unabashed פרצות in the army was unimaginable. They were able to leave because they were Americans. You may find the reason laughable, but it’s not. The Torah commands us to maintain our camp holy. I remember in my days in the army I found it odd that a female NCO would wake us up early in the morning. Just think of 42 young men, that haven’t been home for weeks, with their hormones at peak level, alone with a young woman in a barracks. She was not molested, but nothing good comes out of such incidents. Also at the paramedic course, a female nurse will give anatomy lessons to young men. Stupid jokes were flying back and forth. Couldn’t they find male personnel for the job? (2) Torah study is regarded as paramount in the charedi world, while Israel’s secular society doesn’t value it for anything. I could go on like this to fill at least two more pages, but the editors of CC will object. I wish you raised true issues that plague the charedi society, because we have plenty of them and we don’t seem to get a handle on them.

  7. simairkodesh says:

    “Every Jew owes a debt of honor to the groups that assisted Israelis during the last Lebanon war”.???????
    The correct and accurate info is a large group of askanim, community leaders, volunteers from various US cities were the CHAREDIM (most of them would not even label themselves as such rather ‘Torah Jews’)who came week after wk visiting the bunkers, supplying food (& the tzadik yesod olem Rav Grossman), repairing homes, raising $$ for the Northern Residents. There were groups from LA, from NY, National Council, Agudah, Simon Weisenthal Center, Emunah Women, YU who assisted Israelis during the last Lebanon war. (not exactly a potpouri of Charedim)

  8. Ahron says:

    Dovid,

    Yes, there are charedi charity groups that do wonderful work. Every Jew owes a debt of honor to the groups that assisted Israelis during the last Lebanon war. But I don’t think their work affects the larger fact that charedim are voluntarily self-segregated out of Israeli society.

    And obviously those people who work for Zaka or other charitable groups are taking on a unique, sometimes immense, burden for the good of other Jews and the society at large. They’ve certainly earned my respect and admiration….sometimes even awe

    The majority are isolated and withdrawn. A small minority is outgoing and connected. The two phenomena coexist.

  9. dovid says:

    “34.“Our lives are decided by the ONE ABOVE….”

    Of course it’s decided from above, but read the following incident from Shmuel I and hopefully you will get a sense of how to proceed in life: HaShem instructs Shmuel HaNavi to annoint Dovid as the next king, while King Shaul was still alive. Shmuel told HaShem that Shaul would kill him for it. HaShem didn’t tell Shmuel that and that he should have more bitachon, that after all He, HaShem runs the show. HaShem gave him the practical advice that on the way to annoit Dovid, he (Shmuel) should take a cow to bring it up as a sacrifice. If anyone wondered what Shmuel HaNavi was up to, he would think that all Shmuel had in mind was to bring a sacrifice.

    So what do you learn from this? That in life, you should act as if everything depended on you while knowing full well that the outcome of your acts are in HaShem’s hands.

  10. dovid says:

    Cymay, while we have not even a “minute” control over the final outcome of our actions, Chazal teach us that בדרך שאדם רוצה ללכת מוליכין אותו מן בשמים which roughly translates that when we choose a path, if it is in line with the Torah world outlook (and we have an obligation to find out what that Torah outlook is), we receive heavenly assistance. If one chooses the opposite, they won’t push or encourage him from Heaven on this path, but they won’t stop him from Heaven either from the path of his choice. At the end of the day, the rasha cannot say that HaShem tripped him, while the tzaddik will have a lot to thank Heavens for assistance in avoiding pitfalls along his righteous path. But we must choose and the passuk exhorts us to choose life and choose the right path. This being said, staying away from the Arik Sharons and Ehud Baraks of the world is highly recommended. I said this even before Aug. 2005.

    About Moshe Rabenu’s respect for Parroh, it was due to the respect due to any crowned personality, not because Parroh was HaShem’s messenger. There even is a blessing to be said when seeing a monarch. There is no such blessing to be said when meeting a messenger.

  11. cvmay says:

    “Our lives are decided by the ONE ABOVE who exercises decisions of life and death through messengers. These messengers can be professional medical doctors & surgeons, DUI & speeding drivers, suicide bombers…… etc”.

    Dovid, There is a minute amount that we can and should try to control within the realm of histadlus. I can choose my neighborhood until an ‘undesirable’ moves in right next door. I can choose my doctor except he couldn’t show up for the emergency ‘valve replacement surgery’. I can choose my vehicle and even decide via the GPS what road to travel on except for the fellow DWI/unlicensed/aggresive driver who shares it with me. I can choose my child’s yeshiva but was unaware of the busdriver/janitor/????’s past history with drugs or worse. I can choose to travel oversea and check the security & safety but no one told me to avoid the ship named TITANIC.
    Once again do not blame the MESSENGER you may even be obligated to show him respect as Moshe Rabenu displayed to Pharoh.

  12. dovid says:

    “Sure charedim support charedishe institutions and yeshivos in Israel”

    “lack of interest in being part of Israel as the national project of the Jewish people.”

    Ahron, these statements are simply not true. For a long time, charitable organizations in Israel, the bulk of which are financed by the charedi sectors from Israel and abroad, and manned by charedi personnel, have supported needy Jews regardless of their level of observance. While they typically carry out their activities בצנע, their concern for the wellbeing of their fellow Jews received public acknowledgement even from Israel’s notoriously anti-Charedi media during the Lebanon War two yrs. ago and before, during and after the Gaza campaign, when these organizations went into in the areas bombed by Hetzbollah and Hamas, truly risking their lives and limbs to help civilians. Dismissing or downplaying their contribution does not affect the reality.

  13. dovid says:

    “Our lives are decided by the ONE ABOVE who exercises decisions of life and death through messengers.”

    To the extent it is in a person’s ability, one has a Torah obligation to screen and choose the messengers that have a bearing on his life and his family’s life. As a case in point, we are very selective as to which neighborhood we move into, what yeshivos our children go to, who their friends are. This is what Hashem expects of us and this is what chazal exhorted us.

  14. cvmay says:

    “But the thought that the lives of our sons are decided by the Arik Sharons and Ehud Baraks of the world should make us shudder”

    Our lives are decided by the ONE ABOVE who exercises decisions of life and death through messengers. These messengers can be professional medical doctors & surgeons, DUI & speeding drivers, suicide bombers…… etc.

  15. dovid says:

    Ahron: ‘most charedim have “issues” with the existence of a state of Israel.’

    Not so. Charedim have issues not with the existence of the state, but with its secular character, secular leadership, secular education, and secular everything, meant to deprive us of our mission and destiny as עם סגלה. Ben Gurion is on record saying that Jews become a normal nation when we have thieves and something else that I leave it to you to guess or research. The Charedim vehemently object to such a world outlook, and I am 100% with them.

    Ahron: “Sure charedim support charedishe institutions and yeshivos in Israel (and yes, of course, Yad Sara), and yes prayer is widespread, but there’s a plain (and often sharp) lack of interest in being part of Israel as the national project of the Jewish people.”

    Whom do you want us to support? Shomer Hatzair? It’s dead. Shinui? It’s dead. Meretz? On its way out. Labor Party? On its deathbed. Kadima? It’s on its last legs. And if you suggest Tel Aviv U., Hebrew U., or Haifa U., they all shelter virulently anti-Israel professors that make NK look like amateurs. Their pernicious influence is widespread within and without Israel. They are widely quoted by the Guardian, BBC, CNN and the rest of openly hostile anti-Israel media outlets, as well as U.S. and British university campuses. Israeli students that write papers according to their convictions are penalized by these characters. What’s left of the Zionist enterprise? Beitar Yerushalaim? Hapoel Tel Aviv? No, thank you. Not for us.

    You downplay prayer, or at least don’t seem to put much trust in it. We do. The Bostonner Rebbe and the Chief Rabbi of Rehovot, Rav Kook spearheaded the initiative of non-combatants davening for the safety and wellbeing of the combat soldiers, following the practice in Dovid HaMelech’s time. I know quite a few people, non-combatants like me, who daven and say תהלים for our soldiers. I joined them. How about you? BTW, can you name an Israeli soldier (w/o googling), who grew up in Boro Park, fell prisoner, and to this day we don’t know of his fate? His parents live in Yerushalaim. How about davening for him?

  16. Ahron says:

    Dovid, please read my sentence again. Soldiers’ choice to fight under the Israeli flag “suggests a priori that they assented, in the event of their passing, to be remembered… at least in the manner accepted by the state and the society…” That’s just strikes me as obvious unless a soldier makes alternative wishes clear.

    Re: “issues”. I think it’s really, really clear that most charedim have “issues” with the existence of a state of Israel. That’s not to say that they’re explicitly opposed to it…. but there’s a general sense that things would be cleaner, simpler… better if it didn’t have to exist. I’m not talking Neturei Karta’s extremism; I mean mainstream charediism.

    Sure charedim support charedishe institutions and yeshivos in Israel (and yes, of course, Yad Sara), and yes prayer is widespread, but there’s a plain (and often sharp) lack of interest in being part of Israel as the national project of the Jewish people. (For goodness sake, charedim won’t even acknowledge their own ministerial posts in the government!)

    You noted that “there also are several small, fringe secular Jewish groups who are against the existence of a Jewish state.” Yes that’s entirely correct, and the joint charedi/leftist discomfort with the existence of a Jewish state is one of several noteworthy points of confluence between the two ideologies. The two groups share a deep philosophical nexus that warrants much more attention than it typically gets.

  17. dovid says:

    To those criticizing Esther’s comment #6

    The mefarshim of the Agadah are all in agreement that the “לכם” in the question of one of the four sons brands him with the label of the wicked son. Esther writes: “We Eidahniks also mourn our fallen soldiers ….” She regards the fallen soldiers as “ours”, namely of the Eidah HaCharedi, as much we regard them as ours, and that they, the Eidahniks, also mourn them just like you and me. How is it possible that those criticizing Esther didn’t miss the dark side of her comment, but missed the bright and very encouraging side that unites her and the Eidah with the rest of us? Much of the hostility and animosity among the various Jewish groups is fed by our inability to see beyond labels.

    I think there should be little disagreement that the state of Israel inflicted great and lasting spiritual damage on the k’lal. I am not sure what physical casualties Esther had in mind in her comment. The issue was touched upon in an earlier comment of the Halachic correctness of pushing the disabled tank into the water, thereby killing its crew in order to allow for the tank column to advance. I don’t know what a psak would be in such a case. But the thought that the lives of our sons are decided by the Arik Sharons and Ehud Baraks of the world should make us shudder. It takes more, much, much more than military talent to lead Jews in battle.

    P.S. For those ready to rip me to shreds for my views, I served in the IDF. I was trained as a combat paramedic. I was based most of my service in Bir Thamade in Sinai, approx. 35 km east of the Gidi Pass. My service took me to Gaza and Ramallah, but then it was a piece of cake compared to what our soldiers are facing in these locations. In those years (1976-78), Arabs were afraid of us. Things changed a lot for the worse due to our spiritual ירדה.

    May HaShem have mercy on us and give us the wisdom to see the good in life and in our fellow Jews.

  18. dovid says:

    Aharon: “Seeing as there is no halachic transgression or “issue” in silently pausing and paying one’s respects for 60 seconds, it seems the most elementary mentschlichkeit to do so. And a useless transgression of derech eretz not to.”

    This is 100% true. “pausing and paying one’s respects for 60 seconds” is not at variance with the letter and spirit of Yiddishkeit, even when one knows that that’s not the Jewish way to mourn. Doing otherwise in full public view is hurting and insulting the majority of the Yidden of EY who are our brothers and sisters. It is also dumb.

    Aharon: “The fact that deceased soldiers fought, and so died, under the flag of the Israeli state suggests a priori that they assented, in the event of their passing, to be remembered on Yom Hazikaron at least in the manner accepted by the state and the society that lives under it.”

    That’s not so. Israeli soldiers never explicitly accepted to be mourned this or that way. The issue has not been raised, analyzed, and decided.

    Aharon: “The fact that charedim “have issues” with Israel’s existence…”
    This is not a fair statement. Your statement should read: several small, fringe charedi groups have issues with Israel’s existence. And if you go this path, for the sake of fairness you should add that there also are several small, fringe secular Jewish groups who are against the existence of a Jewish state. The majority of the charedim truly support the yishuv of EY, daven for its safety, support its yeshivos and the impoverished sections of the population, and make alyiah. Could they do more? Yes, but that holds true for all the other sectors of the Jewish population, you and I included. BTW, the original article is about Yankel ZT”L, who was charedi, and who certainly didn’t have “issues” with Israel’s existence.

  19. Ahron says:

    >>““Mark: You make the common mistake of equating mimshal with medinah. The chayalim who fell are not the one’s who “robbed” you of your property.”

    Correct. They, however, also did not decide that this is the manner in which they wish to be remembered. The Medinah did and many Hareidim have issues with the Medinah and many more with the methods chosen when there are more traditional methods available and just as easy to implement.”
    Comment by Mark — May 1, 2009 @ 12:37 am

    Nor did the deceased soldiers decide that they wanted charedim to decide how they would be remembered. Any implication that they did is, bluntly, arrogant and triumphalist — irrespective of one’s opinion on the suitability of one or another avenues of remembering and mourning lost Jews.

    The fact that deceased soldiers fought, and so died, under the flag of the Israeli state suggests a priori that they assented, in the event of their passing, to be remembered on Yom Hazikaron at least in the manner accepted by the state and the society that lives under it.

    To posthumously presume otherwise borders on the avaricious, and it’s reminiscent of other bizarre posthumous assumptions of religious “intent” that certain outsiders have “blessed” deceased Jews with in recent decades.

    Seeing as there is no halachic transgression or “issue” in silently pausing and paying one’s respects for 60 seconds, it seems the most elementary mentschlichkeit to do so. And a useless transgression of derech eretz not to.

    The fact that charedim “have issues” with Israel’s existence is charedim’s problem, and nobody else’s. Certainly not the soldiers who traded their lives so that others would have the privilege of continuing their lives in the country.

    “Please Mr cvmay, don’t distort the Rambam.
    Here is what Chazal and teh Rambam call “Poresh min hatzibur”

    …במס’ שמחות פרק ב’ משנה י’ איתא כל הפורש מדרכי צבור
    Comment by SBA — May 1, 2009 @ 12:51 am”

    SBA, as far as I can tell any distortions of Rambam on this thread are being perpetrated only by yourself. It is obvious that your citation has zero bearing on the issue at hand. And any suggestion by you that it does would be, for those who understand the Hebrew and your implications, the depths of sanctimony and arrogance.

    Would you actually claim that a Jew who dies — dies — so that Jewish life in Eretz Yisrael may continue is not “involving himself in the pains and travails of the public”? The very suggestion is sacrilege.

  20. CC Editor says:

    [Editor’s Note: We are closing the thread begun by comment #6. We received both praise for our open-mindedness in posting this rather extreme POV, as well as criticism for including such an extreme position in a moderated forum, and thereby seem to give it legitimacy. Neither the praise nor the criticism is deserved, at least not for our intentions. We posted the comment not because we endorsed it in any manner or form, but to allow it to be critiqued by readers, as it was. It was our hope that the critique would be swift, effective, and convey the message that Esther of the Eidah’s position is rejected by the overwhelming majority of the community. (There are multiple editors at Cross-Currents. Any one of them can approve or nix a comment. The reaction of the first on the scene was that the comment was so repugnant, that the finger should quickly go to the delete button. Then he changed his mind.) We’ve devoted enough space to it. We won’t be accepting any more comments on that sidebar.

    Esther subsequently followed up with an answer to her critics, and later again when she saw that it was not published, claiming that it was within the stated publication guidelines . Perhaps so. There is one unstated super-guideline, however. We do not publish comments that we feel will be injurious to the well-being of the tzibbur. By our presence on the internet, we have sent a de facto invitation to all kinds of people to look in on our conversations. Without knowing a good deal more about divisions in the community, they can walk away with a very flawed understanding of what frum Jews believe. We will not be party to that.

    Nonetheless, our repugnance is limited to Esther’s view, not to Esther. We can therefore apologize to her for having spent time preparing a message that we will not publish.

    Perhaps the Eidah will develop its own web-presence, and she can comment there. :-) ]

  21. SBA says:

    Please Mr cvmay, don’t distort the Rambam.

    Here is what Chazal and teh Rambam call “Poresh min hatzibur”

    במס’ שמחות פרק ב’ משנה י’ איתא כל הפורש מדרכי צבור אין מתעסקים עמו בכל
    דבר. וכתב הרמב”ם פרק א’ מהלכות אבל דהיינו האנשים שפרקו עול המצוות מעל צוארן ואין נכללים בכלל ישראל בעשיית המצוות וכבוד המועדות וישיבת בתי כנסיות ובתי מדרשות אלא הרי הן כבני חורין לעצמן כשאר העכו”ם וכן האפיקורסין והמומרין והמוסרין כל אלו נקראים פורשים מדרכי צבור. וכן כתב הטור יו”ד סי’ שמ”ה. וע’ בבית יוסף שהביא מתשובת הרא”ש כלל י”ז דמומר בכלל פורש מדרכי צבור הוא ואין מתעסקין בו כל עיקר

  22. Mark says:

    Joel,

    “The fact is [and I write this as someone who has a great deal of appreciation for the IDF and its holy soldiers] there are many issues involved in the question of how to celebrate Yom HaZikaron
    =================
    Ok, please list the top 3 so we can discuss.”

    No thanks. I have no interest in rehashing old arguments that neither of us will agree on when we’re done anyhow. All I’ve asked for is not pretend that they don’t exist and to settle the issue with an emotionally charged story about one soldier.

  23. Mark says:

    R’ Dovid,

    “Under normal circumstances I would let these comments go without answer, but in this case the tone is frankly scary.”

    I apologize for scaring you. I thought I wrote somewhat reasonably, expressing sympathy for R’ Yankel zt”l and appreciation for the soldiers but I guess the points I made were more than some could handle.

    “Mark: You make the common mistake of equating mimshal with medinah. The chayalim who fell are not the one’s who “robbed” you of your property.”

    Correct. They, however, also did not decide that this is the manner in which they wish to be remembered. The Medinah did and many Hareidim have issues with the Medinah and many more with the methods chosen when there are more traditional methods available and just as easy to implement.

    You’re free to continue to pretend that no other issues exist of course, but I’m perfectly willing to accept that although I see it one way, others see it differently and it doesn’t mean they lack hakarat ha-tov.

  24. Robert Lebovits says:

    Dodi,
    I remember Yankel, he was there during my time in Beis HaTalmud, and when I heard about his p’teira it was gut-wrenching. He was not the only bochur in the yeshiva who was performing his military service at that time. I also had a chavrusah who was a Golani and I would say the character of the yeshiva was immeasurably enhanced by the presence of Bnei Torah who clearly valued their learning above all else while engaged in army service with no fanfare or political agenda. It was particularly a credit to R’ Dov, shlita, who was only concerned with the wishes & welfare of his talmidim & never with his own standing.
    #8: “…We could then get into a series of technical arguements…”.
    I have no idea what caliber of talmid chocham you may be, but I am confident that if a gadol b’yisrael such as Rav Dov Schwartzman, shlita, had no opposition to seeing his talmidim function in the military, he could respond to whatever arguements you might have questioning such activity. One could even wish that Klal Yisroel be blessed with many more Roshei Yeshivos of his brilliance and foresight.

  25. joel rich says:

    cvmay,
    To be exact see Rambam Hilchot tshuva chapter 3:
    רמב”ם הלכות תשובה פרק ג
    הפורש מדרכי צבור ואף על פי שלא עבר עבירות אלא נבדל מעדת ישראל ואינו עושה מצות בכללן ולא נכנס בצרתן ולא מתענה בתעניתן אלא הולך בדרכו כאחד מגויי הארץ וכאילו אינו מהן אין לו חלק לעולם הבא
    KT

  26. cvmay says:

    #

    While a great degree of Hakoras Hatov is certainly required, one wonders whether or not it should be in the form of Yom Hazikaron. From a Torah perspective, there would seem to be nothing significant about a day that was created by a non-Torah government and observed in a non-Torah way. Mishnayos for our fallen soldiers, as Rabbi Landesman suggests, can be learned at any time. One can reflect on their mesirus nefesh during the Av Harachamim prayer every Shabbos, or perhaps on Tisha B’av, which is Judaism’s true Memorial Day.
    Comment by Chesky

    There is an impt inyan of “AL TIFROSH MIN HATZIBUR” – what you would like to perform/act on privately in your home during a siren on Yom Hazikaron is fine yet when you are part of a TZIBUR (in a public arena)the action has to relate to the kehilla not the yachid’s POV…

  27. Loberstein says:

    Esther’s comment is so out of line that I wonder if it is true. If she were an “Eidahnik” she wouldn’t be on an internet blog. She wouldn’t even have a computer. Something is rotten.

  28. Dovid S. says:

    The issue is not only what would be the BEST form of hakaras hatov, but whether it is proper to demonstrate a seeming LACK of hakaras hatov when everyone else is standing silent.

  29. Out of town charedi says:

    Yankel,

    Thank you. Your story touched my heart. I will think of you, too, and share your story with my children.

  30. Stefan says:

    Maybe it was because he was a true ben Torah that his conscience gave him no rest?

  31. Chesky says:

    While a great degree of Hakoras Hatov is certainly required, one wonders whether or not it should be in the form of Yom Hazikaron. From a Torah perspective, there would seem to be nothing significant about a day that was created by a non-Torah government and observed in a non-Torah way. Mishnayos for our fallen soldiers, as Rabbi Landesman suggests, can be learned at any time. One can reflect on their mesirus nefesh during the Av Harachamim prayer every Shabbos, or perhaps on Tisha B’av, which is Judaism’s true Memorial Day.

  32. dovid landesman says:

    We Eidahniks also mourn our fallen soldiers among the millions of physical and spiritual casualties of this medinah shel gehinom, only not on Yom Zicaron, but today, Hay Iyar, the day this national suicide was started.
    Comment by Esther — April 29, 2009 @ 12:24 pm

    I find it hard to publicly show this person honor although I do have hakarat ha-tov for the good he has done for my sister.
    Comment by Mark — April 29, 2009 @ 2:37 pm

    Under normal circumstances I would let these comments go without answer, but in this case the tone is frankly scary.

    Esther: How dare you mention the neshamot of those who fell together with a medinah shel gehenom? You might do well to study Chazal’s attitude toward Achav before you release your vitriol publicly!

    Mark: You make the common mistake of equating mimshal with medinah. The chayalim who fell are not the one’s who “robbed” you of your property.

    Two stories which need to be added [with the moderator’s kind permission]. One I heard directly from one of the participants, the other I heard from a source who I consider reliable but who was not a participant in the conversation.

    In the 1968 presidential campaign, Hubert Humphrey – the democratic candidate – came to Williamsburg to visit the Satmar rebbe zt”l. He was accompanied by Daniel moynihan, then a candidate for president of the New York City Councuil, later a US Senator along with a number of the later’s aides [one of whom told me the story]. Humphrey asked the rebbe what were the things he could do as president that would bring the Rebbe satisfaction. The rebbe replied: “Sell jet fighters to Israel!”

    R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l once called in a group of talmidim who had skipped seder in the yeshiva {Kol Torah where RSZA was rosh yeshiva] on lag ba’omer. Reb Shlomo Zalman asked them where they had gone and they replied: “to Meron to pray at kivrei tzaddikim.” RSZA answered them: “There’s no reason to go to Meron. Go to Har Herzl [the national military cemetary].

    Dovid Landesman

  33. Ahron says:

    “We Eidahniks also mourn our fallen soldiers among the millions of physical and spiritual casualties of this medinah shel gehinom, only not on Yom Zicaron, but today, Hay Iyar, the day this national suicide was started.”
    Comment by Esther — April 29, 2009 @ 12:24 pm

    Mmmm-hmmmm. Because the state of the Jewish people was just so positive and bright prior to May 14, 1948….right?

    I note the above commenter’s inability to relate to the intense human experience and narrative of unchangeable realities in the above article, instead turning the discussion immediately to her group’s philosophy. A reliable indicator of fanaticism.

    Anyway Esther, it would be interesting to read your preferred counterhistory of how the world should have proceeded from May 14, 1948 onwards.

    “A very powerful piece. If I were a Haredi propagandist, though, I would claim that this is an example of a Frum Yid who was tricked into joining the army instead of learning and was then betrayed and murdered by the Israeli government.”

    I’m sure you would. If you’re a person who values truth, moral integrity and mentschlichkeit then I imagine you’re happy not to be a propagandist of any variety.

    “We could then get into a series of technical arguments about the halachic permissibility of sacrificing a fellow Jew in order to insure the success of a military operation.”
    Comment by Benzion N. Chinn — April 29, 2009 @ 2:50 pm

    It is a series of “technical arguments” that charedim have recused themselves from ever seriously addressing. They still want history to have worked out differently.

  34. mb says:

    “We Eidahniks also mourn our fallen soldiers among the millions of physical and spiritual casualties of this medinah shel gehinom, only not on Yom Zicaron, but today, Hay Iyar, the day this national suicide was started.

    Comment by Esther — April 29, 2009 @ 12:24 pm ”

    Esther, you are so caught up in the philosophic view of your group, that you are clueless about Jewish history.Shame on you for not studying it, shame on your group for poisoning you with mindless statements about medinah shel gehinom and national suicide.

  35. joel rich says:

    The fact is [and I write this as someone who has a great deal of appreciation for the IDF and its holy soldiers] there are many issues involved in the question of how to celebrate Yom HaZikaron
    =================
    Ok, please list the top 3 so we can discuss.
    KT

  36. Baruch says:

    Thank you this wonderful article and hopefully all the people who lets these days go by with out contemplating will learn from what is written here.

    kol tov,

    Baruch

  37. Benzion N. Chinn says:

    A very powerful piece. If I were a Haredi propagandist, though, I would claim that this is an example of a Frum Yid who was tricked into joining the army instead of learning and was then betrayed and murdered by the Israeli government. We could then get into a series of technical arguments about the halachic permissibility of sacrificing a fellow Jew in order to insure the success of a military operation.

  38. Mark says:

    R’ Dovid,

    There doesn’t seem to be any question that R’ Yankel was an exceptional person and we all owe him a debt of gratitude. Yehi Zichro Baruch.

    Nevertheless, I do have a slight problem with something you wrote:
    “I find myself angry – nay, overwhelmingly perturbed – by the fact that the overwhelming majority of chareidi Jews ignore this day. It is not my intention to debate whether or not a non-halachic state has any standing. Rather, I simply wonder what happened to elementary hakarat ha-tov.”

    Perhaps elementary hakarat ha-tov is felt by many chareidim. Yet, there are much bigger issues at play here that compete with that. You and I both know that this is a possibility. For example, there is someone to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for serving as shadchan for my sister. He did a remarkable job and deserves tremendous credit and gratitude. Yet, the fact remains that he has also caused me a devastating financial loss in an unrelated area of involvement and also behaved in a manner unbefitting a decent person and harmed many others as well. He headed a scam operation that devastated many people’s live and savings.

    I find it hard to publicly show this person honor although I do have hakarat ha-tov for the good he has done for my sister. I assume you know of similar dillemmas. The fact is [and I write this as someone who has a great deal of appreciation for the IDF and its holy soldiers] there are many issues involved in the question of how to celebrate Yom HaZikaron and while you’re perfectly within your rights to focus on the R’ Yankels, I don’t believe it’s fair to pretend that none other exist. They do and highlighting emotional stories without delving into the other issues is a sleight of hand practiced by the media and unworthy of serious comment.

    I’d have no problem with you writing a beautiful article about R’ Yankel zt”l. Why the need to castigate the Chareidim in the process?

  39. Esther says:

    We Eidahniks also mourn our fallen soldiers among the millions of physical and spiritual casualties of this medinah shel gehinom, only not on Yom Zicaron, but today, Hay Iyar, the day this national suicide was started.

  40. sarah shapiro says:

    I don’t have anything to add, only to say thank you.

  41. Dovid S. says:

    Thank You for publishing this.

    I was wondering whether a change to your last sentence might better express the point that I believe you were trying to make, which is that we should have hakarat hatov to ALL of those who have been killed and maimed in defense of our land and our people, whether or not we knew them personally or feel that we have much in common with them.

    Here is the change:
    I am not here to give mussar, I am here only to ask that you think about Yankel and all his comrades — and thereby bring an aliyah to the neshamot of all of them.

  42. cvmay says:

    Thank you, thank you — Yankel (and there are others like him eg. Meir Lifshitz from Mercaz Harav who died al kiddush hashem crossing the Suez in the Yom Kippur War) is an inspiration and I plan to share his life story at the shabbos table this week. Yehei BARUCH

  43. joel rich says:

    Make no mistake, Yankel was a true ben Torah, but he had a conscience that gave him no rest.
    ==============================

    and IMHO, herein is the acid test for all of us – if your conscience gives you rest, it’s time to go to defcon 5. The end of the story is, of course heart wrenching, but imho the Chaval al d’avdin v’lo mishtachnin belongs right after this sentence.

    KT

  44. Ahron says:

    There’s nothing I or anyone else can possibly add to this story.

    Except one clarification. You wrote:

    >>“Make no mistake, Yankel was a true ben Torah, but he had a conscience that gave him no rest.” “But”? Really?

    I am certain that the truer phrasing would be: “Make no mistake, Yankel was a true ben Torah, and so he had a conscience that gave him no rest…”

    Having read your description of your friend, I am beyond convinced that Yankel’s commitment to the safety of Am Yisrael, his moral integrity and his love of Torah were one and the same. Surely he would have brooked no separation between those three.

    May the Creator avenge his death.