The G-d Lover Within Us

letter-447577_1280

by Rabbi Doron Beckerman

In a previous post, I alluded to the fact that the current implementation of Kollel has “significant drawbacks”. Not being the focus of that essay, it seems that that that statement was construed by some as a mere afterthought to a critique of broad ideological opposition to Kollel.

That was not my intent. As I clarified in the comment section, my criticism was aimed toward those who use the Rambam as a springboard for principled antagonism toward Kollel per se, which, in my opinion, is both factually incorrect and should be a catalyst for introspection. I fully recognize, though, that there are flaws. In our world of limited resources and widespread Kollel, there is a need for some sort of accountability, for a number of reasons.

Even if we were to turn a blind eye to extrinsic factors, there is a glaring deficiency in the present state of affairs – the detrimental effect of the lowering of standards within the Beis Medrash itself

To quote R’ Elya Weintraub (HaTekufah B’s’arat Eliyahu) –

When the matter of Kollel was a new idea, and there was a great sacrifice of the ways of the outside world, then being in the Beis Medrash was a display of the sincerity of his yearning to cling to Torah without any adornments and accoutrements, and the pristine form of a Ben Torah was manifest, in its full meaning. As a result, in his to day-to-day conduct, and his Mesirus Nefesh in acquiring Torah, he was a symbol of unadulterated Jewish life, since one who was unwilling to sacrifice was not absorbed by this Beis Medrash.

However, with the Will of G-d, the circle of learners has widened, and the benches opened up. Indeed, granted that it is essentially a blessing from Heaven to expand the group of Torah learners… nevertheless there is the potential of a painful thorn, since from now it has become a place of absorption for those who were essentially unwilling to give up the temporal life for the sake of the eternal, and it is only due to the expansion of the opportunity to enter the Beis Medrash, that they too entered.

In Eretz Yisrael, the matter of army draft exemptions based on full-time Torah study cyclically shifts from back to front burner of media obsession. Tensions flare up periodically over this issue, and it is presently before the Israeli Supreme Court to determine whether such exemptions are discriminatory.

The primary basis for this exemption is taken to be honorary Shevet Levi status, as per the Rambam at the end of the Laws of Shemitta and Yovel. (See, e.g., Rabbi Y.M. Tikuczinski – HaTorah VeHamedinah journal, 1952.) Justification for this lofty status must be earned, not presumed, and benchwarmers clearly do not deserve it. The Chazon Ish (Pe’er Hador vol. IV pg. 260) somewhat famously stated that those who do not study full-time, who masquerade as those whose “Torah is their trade”, present a mortal danger toward the Yeshivos.

As a suggestion, in an ideal world, the Torah learners would be part and parcel of the army corps, and their commitment for service would be considerably longer than the standard three years. A transparent committee would report to the army on attendance and performance of all those claiming a Torah-trade “exemption” at the end of each semester. The young men learning in Yeshiva, and their elder peers in Kollel, would have a responsibility, as the Torah Corps of the army, to report to the army brass, delineating what percentage of the time meant for study was adhered to.

Minimum standards of accomplishment in terms of mastery should be set. I would not set them excessively high across the board, as I consider Torah study by the sincerely dedicated to be of supreme value regardless of standardized excellence benchmarks. My standard would be reflective of what sincere effort should produce, and consistency, diligence and effort should be heavily factored for those 17-20 years of age whose innate talents need coaxing.

Men who fall below a certain level of attendance or achievement over a set period of time (there are periodic ups and downs but they cannot be lasting too long) should be subject to a review committee comprised of Roshei Yeshiva and army officials. The input of the Roshei Yeshiva as to the spiritual danger of sending young Shimon or Yankel to the army should bear veto weight, and the army would have to come up with creative solutions to this widespread problem of going off the Derech or falling back in Avodas Hashem in the army. (Rav Moshe Tzuriel speculates tha this was part of why R’ Tzvi Yehudah Kook insisted on his students in Mercaz Harav staying in Yeshiva until age 26.) I’m not convinced that the army is so interested in dealing with that headache, but if Nachal Charedi is considered a good option to deal with this issue, then the army’s shifting them to units like Nachal Charedi would seem to be justified. It would be a better use of their talents in defense of the citizens of Israel.

I believe this approach would convey a sense of ehrilichkeit (honesty) regarding army service exemption for Charedim in Eretz Yisrael, an issue that has festered for decades, and has hindered efforts toward rapprochment long overdue.

[Rabbi Doron Beckeman is a Rebbe in Yeshivat Ohr Yerushalayim]

You may also like...

10 Responses

  1. Doron Beckerman says:

    (IsraelNN.com) A new statement from IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi requires soldiers to tolerate immodest performances in the name of group bonding.

    For months, IDF rabbis have battled the Education and Youth Corps over the issue of military performances that do not conform to Halacha (Jewish law). The statement from Lt.-Gen. Ashkenazi appears to support the Education Corps over the Rabbinate.

    Performances for soldiers are IDF activities for all intents and purposes, and soldiers must attend them, Ashkenazi said. “After the performance begins, if a soldier feels that what is happening on stage does not suit his religious views, he is not required to look directly or to play an active role,” he said.

    A religious soldier “can stay in his place and show forbearance, in order to respect his unit and the people on stage,” he continued. Leaving the hall during the performance would be detrimental to the unit’s cohesion, and to performers’ ability to get their message across to the soldiers present, he said.

    While ordering soldiers to remain in place for the sake of group bonding, Ashkenazi had demands for organizers as well, and called on those who plan IDF events to take soldiers’ religious needs into concern.

    In March, the IDF’s BaMachaneh magazine reported that large groups of soldiers had begun walking out of performances that included women singing or dancing on stage. Brigadier-General Eli Shermeister, head of the Education and Youth Corps, called the phenomenon “worrisome,” and suggested that soldiers who left during performances were reducing group cohesion.

    The IDF Rabbinate ruled that there is no justification for forcing religious soldiers to be present at a performance that violates Halacha. Organizers should be aware of the issues religious soldiers face, and should find a “creative solution” by releasing the soldiers from all or part of the event, or by changing the contents of the event to allow all soldiers to take part, the Rabbinate said.

  2. Doron Beckerman says:

    Thank you all for your comments.

    Joel Rich,

    Your formula would seem to imply that barring creative solutions, the defence needs of Israel trump OTD risks. I don’t agree.

    Bob Miller,

    What you say is true, but think of it as a confidence building measure that would go a long way in fostering such unity, It would also obviate discrimination concerns – anyone could join the Torah Corps with the concommital benchmarks.

    lacosta,

    “1—these solutions only work for those whose objections are army-based rather than medina based [ ie anything the medina does is treif]”

    That’s also true – but RAL Shteinman supported Nachal Charedi, and his opponents on this issue, by and large, did not invoke the Medinah.

    “2—these ideas can parrallel the arrangements hesder yeshivot do , and follow their experience”

    Hesder helps alot, but as I wrote once to these virtual pages, my roommate in Kerem B’Yavneh told me that anyone who says he did not experience a Yeridah in the army is not telling the truth. I myself was guided by a very prominent RZ Rabbinic figure not to join the IDF, in part for this reason.

    Tzippi,

    I cannot say that I am 100% aware of the Kollel scene in the US, vis-a-vis percentages of populace. Generally, I support people seriously learning in Kollel, if they representative of paradigmatic Ovdei Hashem. I support a number of years in learning post-marriage for the masses. I oppose people thinking they deserve the world handed to them on a silver platter. (When I was learning in the Kollel in Kerem B’yavnah, we were quite impoverished. We could not really afford to heat our apartment etc.)

    Ori,

    “Is it the army’s job to ensure young Charedi men (not boys, men who are supposed to be mature enough to make life and death decisions) stay Charedi?”

    If it wants to be the army of all its citizens, yes.

    “Is Charedi life that unappealing that you are more worried about members of your group defecting than happy about the possibility that Charedim, living and fighting side by side with non-Charedi Jews, would convince them to join you?”

    Charedi life is far from unappealing (btw, the OTD phenomenon in the IDF or in college/University is hardly limited to the Charedim), but the way of the world is that the playing field between Tumah and Taharah is not level. The deep resevoirs of Yiras Shamayim necessary to overcome trials may not be present at the moment of truth. Yosef Hatzaddik barely made it by the skin of his teeth, not because he thought his life was unappealing. Everyone has his challenges, and unmarried men have theirs too.

    zalman,

    Two points regarding the Chasam Sofer:
    1) The nitpick: he mentions that his thesis applies when רוב שרויין בתוכה – whether this is crucial to his thesis, I don’t know.

    2) The fundamental: you recall that one may leave Eretz Yisrael altogether for the sake of Talmud Torah (Rambam Hilchos Eivel based on Avodah Zarah 13) even if there is someone to teach him in Eretz Yisrael. This is prima facie a question on the Chasam Sofer – surely one who leaves EY is not fulfilling Yishuv HaAretz!

    The answer is that there are rules as to when one stops learning to perform a Mitzvah. The rule is that one stops for the sake of a Mitzvah that cannot be done by others (presumably either the CS is speaking of a situation where the learner’s efforts are needed, or he considers it a Chovas Haguf), but only if he will return to his learning right away, i.e. there will be no qualitative damage to his learning. (see Rambam Talmud Torah 3:4 carefully, Ishus 15:2 regarding Pru Urvu vs. learning Torah, Pachad Yitzchak (Rav Hutner) on Shavuos Maamar 40, and Dibros Moshe Kiddushin 43, as well as Shulchan Aruch Harav Talmud Torah 3:1).

    That is why one may leave EY altogether for the sake of a Rebbe who he “clicks” better with – the quality of one’s learning overrides even Mitzvos like Peru Urvu which are Chovos Haguf.

    Going to the army certainly hampers one’s learning quality, is not in fulfillment of the Rambam’s ויחזור לתלמודו, and (based on the rules as we know them) not what the Chasam Sofer meant. He meant working in the field/putting on Tefillin and getting straight back into the Beis Medrash.

    As you say, this is putting aside the detriment to one’s overall observance.

  3. Doron Beckerman says:

    “How about this, since we are asking for relief from the physical defence of our people-The input of the army as to the national danger of not sending young Shimon or Yankel to the army should bear veto weight, and the Roshei Yeshiva would have to come up with creative solutions to this widespread problem of going off the Derech or falling back in Avodas Hashem in the army(or in society).”

    That would seem to imply that barring creative solutions, the army’s defence needs would outweigh going OTD risks inherent to the army’s make-up. I don’t agree at all.

    “To implement a policy like this would require a lot more unity in our camp than now exists. Thus, the first order of business may be to foster that unity.”

    That’s true – but implementation of this policy would help create that unity (call it a confidence building measure) and would obivate discrimination concerns – anyone who wanted to sign up for the Torah Corps could and would have to maintain said standards.

    “1—these solutions only work for those whose objections are army-based rather than medina based [ ie anything the medina does is treif]”

    That’s also true – but R’ Ahron Leib Steinman has no problem with Nachal Charedi, and his opponents on this issue were by and large not invoking the Medinah.

    “these ideas can parrallel the arrangements hesder yeshivot do , and follow their experience”

    Hesder helps alot, but as I wrote once in a comment to these virtual pages, my roommate in KBY told me that anyone who says that he was not adversely effected by the army (from a religious perpective), is not telling the truth. I myself received guidance from a very prominent RZ leader not to go to the army, in part for this reason.

    “Rabbi Beckerman, do you have any thoughts you could share on this phenomenon chutz l’aretz?”

    I’m not familiar enough with the particulars in chu”l, in terms of percentage of the Charedi population staying in learning indefinitelyt, to comment in a pragmatic way. In general, I don’t have a problem with people learning in Kollel as long as they make good use of their time and are developing as paradigmatic Yirei Shamayim. I do have a problem with excessive demands on prospective parents of a Shidduch that go beyond bare necessity. When I was in Kollel in KBY, we were rather impoverished. We could not really afford to heat the apartment, which was in large part the catalyst for me to seek employment in California.

    “Is it the army’s job to ensure young Charedi men (not boys, men who are supposed to be mature enough to make life and death decisions) stay Charedi?”

    To create as conducive an atmosphere as possible to maintenance of religious standards, assuming it wants to be the army of all citizens, yes.

    “Is Charedi life that unappealing that you are more worried about members of your group defecting than happy about the possibility that Charedim, living and fighting side by side with non-Charedi Jews, would convince them to join you?”

    No and yes. Charedi life is far from unappealing, but the playing field between Tum’ah and Taharah is not level. Al Derech Remez, that is why, in Al HaNissim, we mention not only the miracle of the mighty being defeated by the weak, but also the phenomenon of the defiled being defeated by the pure.

    Unmarried youth are prone to their instincts (happily, since if there were no Yetzer Hara there would be no reward) – and once tempted the resources of Yiras Shamayim may not be there to withstand it. Those are the facts of life. The Chofetz Chaim was also prone to succumbing to his Yetzer Hara.

    “The Chasam Sofer (at Sukkah, Daf 36A; and Toras Moshe, Shoftim, Mi HaIsh) would seem to support opposition to Kollel in Israel per se. The Chasam Sofer suggests that the mitzvot of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael and Kavod Eretz Yisrael require participation in the economy/”real world” of Eretz Yisrael. (Otherwise, “it is as if he would say I will not put on Tefilin because I am learning”.) That would certainly include army service.”

    Two points, one nitpicky and one fundamental.

    The nitpick – the Chasam Sofer there mentions רוב ישראל שרויין as a condition for this outlook. Whether it is critical or not to his thesis, I don’t know.

    The fundamental – Recall that one may leave EY altogther for the sake of Talmud Torah, even if there is someone to teach him in EY (Rambam Eivel 3:14, based on Avodah Zarah 13a). Certainly this prima facie presents a problem for the Chasam Sofer – one who leaves EY is certainly not fulfilling Yishuv HaAretz.

    The answer is that there are rules for when to stop learning for a Mitzvah and when we do not. A Mitzvah that cannot be done by others, such as Tefillin, one stops for. Presumably, the Chasam Sofer is speaking of a situation where the Mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz cannot be done by others, either because there are insufficient resources as it is, or because he considers it a Chovas Haguf.

    Either way, though, this whole rule is only when the subject’s learning will not be qualitatively damaged irreparably, i.e he will immediately return to his learning at a comparable level. If it will damage his learning, then one does not stop for a Mitzvah, even if it cannot be done by others. [See Rambam Talmud Torah 3:4 closely, Rambam Ishus 15:2, Pachad Yitzchok (Rav Hutner) Shavuos Maamar 40 2:9, and especially Dibros Moshe Kiddushin 43:4.)

    See as well as Shulchan Aruch Harav Talmud Torah 3:1

    לא אמרו שמבטלים ומפסיקים מתלמוד תורה כדי לקיים מצוה שאי אפשר לעשותה ע”י אחרים כמו שיתבאר, אלא להפסיק לפי שעה וזמן, מה שאין בו אלא ביטול מצות העסק ולימוד התורה תמיד, אבל לא ביטול מצוה מידיעת התורה באר היטב בפירושה

    A prolonged stint in the army is damaging to one’s growth in Torah, doesn’t fulfill what the Rambam says ויחזור לתלמודו, and is not the same as what the Chasam Sofer is talking about (based on the rules as we know them) – working your field and getting back into the Beis Medrash, similar to putting on Tefillin. This explains why for a qualitative benefit to one’s Torah study, such as a Rebbe he “clicks” better with, one may leave EY altogther.

    And, as you say, this is putting aside detriment to one’s observance.

  4. too tired says:

    Lacosta, you missed the next line of the gemara….that Rabban Gamliel was told that in a dream just to make him feel better. In fact, those added to the Bais Hamedrash were productive.

  5. zalman says:

    The Chasam Sofer (at Sukkah, Daf 36A; and Toras Moshe, Shoftim, Mi HaIsh) would seem to support opposition to Kollel in Israel per se. The Chasam Sofer suggests that the mitzvot of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael and Kavod Eretz Yisrael require participation in the economy/”real world” of Eretz Yisrael. (Otherwise, “it is as if he would say I will not put on Tefilin because I am learning”.) That would certainly include army service.

    I am not addressing the “spiritual danger” of army service, which is a separate issue (and can be addressed separately).

  6. Ori says:

    The input of the Roshei Yeshiva as to the spiritual danger of sending young Shimon or Yankel to the army should bear veto weight, and the army would have to come up with creative solutions to this widespread problem of going off the Derech or falling back in Avodas Hashem in the army.

    Is it the army’s job to ensure young Charedi men (not boys, men who are supposed to be mature enough to make life and death decisions) stay Charedi? Is Charedi life that unappealing that you are more worried about members of your group defecting than happy about the possibility that Charedim, living and fighting side by side with non-Charedi Jews, would convince them to join you?

  7. tzippi says:

    Rabbi Beckerman, do you have any thoughts you could share on this phenomenon chutz l’aretz?

  8. lacosta says:

    1—these solutions only work for those whose objections are army-based rather than medina based [ ie anything the medina does is treif]

    2—these ideas can parrallel the arrangements hesder yeshivot do , and follow their experience

    3— of course , this will not prevent people from hollering ‘parasitim’ –it would just prove them anti-simetic….

    4– in re opening the doors wide, a had a rov who said when they threw out R Gamliel, and added tons of benches, the end of R Gamliel’s remorse was that , in fact, nothing productive came from those back-benchers…..

  9. Bob Miller says:

    To implement a policy like this would require a lot more unity in our camp than now exists. Thus, the first order of business may be to foster that unity.

  10. joel rich says:

    The input of the Roshei Yeshiva as to the spiritual danger of sending young Shimon or Yankel to the army should bear veto weight, and the army would have to come up with creative solutions to this widespread problem of going off the Derech or falling back in Avodas Hashem in the army.
    ==========================================

    How about this, since we are asking for relief from the physical defence of our people-The input of the army as to the national danger of not sending young Shimon or Yankel to the army should bear veto weight, and the Roshei Yeshiva would have to come up with creative solutions to this widespread problem of going off the Derech or falling back in Avodas Hashem in the army(or in society).

    KT