Sunday, March 23, 2014

... not a secular burden but a religious duty.

Torah Study And The Defense Of Israel

By: Rabbi Jeremy Gimpel in the Jewish Press
Published: March 20th, 2014
Latest update: March 21st, 2014

I am a platoon sergeant in the IDF. I am a religious Jew. I am a platoon sergeant in the IDF because I am a religious Jew.

Recently, hundreds of thousands of haredim gathered in Jerusalem to protest the idea that they should be drafted into the army like every other Jewish citizen of Israel. This, they claim, is the Torah law and the will of God.

It is nearly impossible to find a precedent in all of Tanach, Talmud or Jewish history where Jews did not go out to defend their country together. There is not one time when Jews were exempt from fighting alongside their brothers because they were learning Torah.

Joshua, the spiritual leader and commander of the first Jewish army in the land of Israel, was commanded by God that “the Torah shall not depart from your mouth day and night.” In the haredi paradigm, we should expect to read about the houses of study Joshua established. Instead, for the next seven years Joshua went out to battle with all his people.

Ironically, that passage in the first chapter in the book of Joshua is the primary textual source for the commandment to learn Torah.

King David, the author of so many of our treasured prayers, also went out to battle. With a Torah scroll by his side he led his men in war and toward peace. The Maccabees were priests in the Holy Temple. Matityahu was the high priest and his son Judah a priest as well. Both led the military revolt against the Greek empire. Later, Rabbi Akiva led his students to war under Bar Kochba against the Roman occupation in Israel.

For those who can’t find value in the Jewish state and therefore refuse to defend it (or to even thank God for its existence on Yom Ha’atzmaut), a religious re-education is in order. There has never been more Torah study in the land of Israel in all our history than there is today. More synagogues, mikvehs, yeshivas and seminaries have been built by the modern state of Israel than ever before. In quantifiable numbers, the amount of people learning Torah in our modern state dwarfs anything that King David, King Solomon, Ezra, Nehemiah, the Hasmoneans and Rabbi Akiva ever produced.

Outside of Israel, the greatest yeshivas like Volozhin and Lublin had no more than 300 students. Even the legendary institutions of Sura and Pumpedita had approximately 1,000 students. Just the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of Torah students in Israel to protest is reason enough to celebrate the country.

Only the modern state of Israel with a trained military could have transformed our shattered and devastated people after the Holocaust into a new spiritual empire. While it is forbidden to rely on miracles, we live as a free people again today because of our brave, dedicated soldiers. Only a few decades ago Jews wore a different kind of uniform – one with stripes and a yellow star.

In this sense, the popular demand “to share the burden” creates the wrong discourse and misses the heart of what it means to be a Jew in our country. Serving in the first unified Jewish army in the Land of Israel since the times of King David is not a burden; it is a privilege, an honor, and a miracle. It is unconscionable for a religious Jew living in the Promised Land, connected to his heritage and his history, not to want to serve in the army.

Although the ultimate Jewish vision aspires to no army, no soldiers and no weapons of war, the story of the modern Jewish army is the next chapter in the ongoing saga of Jewish history.

Israel Eldad articulates this point in his book The Jewish Revolution. “Some time in 1953,” he writes, “a remarkable series of ancient letters was discovered in the Judean desert. These were the letter of the last commander of Judea, Simon Bar Kochba, the leader of the last great revolt against the Romans…. The letters, addressed to commanders in various theaters of operation, were personally signed by him. Now they are on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

“This by itself is an outstanding archeological discovery. But it is not the most miraculous part of the story. The true miracle lies in the fact that the person who discovered the letters of the last Jewish commander was the well-known archeologist, General Yigael Yadin, effectively the first commander of the new Jewish army.

“For 1,820 years Bar Kochba’s letters lay hidden in the Judean desert, in clay pots where they were preserved for some unknown date in the future.… They were waiting until they reached their final destination. The letters of Bar Kochba, the last commander of the Jewish army, thus reached the first commander of the new Jewish army after 1,820 years as if by personal delivery….”

What Eldad does not discuss is what Bar Kochba wrote and how relevant his message is today. He ordered his men to deliver lulavs and etrogs to his soldiers in the battlefield. It was the holiday of Sukkot and his Torah-observant troops wanted to serve God while they served in His army.

A call to us from the days of Rabbi Akiva to never forget that serving in the Jewish army is not a secular burden but a religious duty.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Torah Way of (Honest) Living ...

My sentiments precisely:

"This past Motzai Shabbos, Rav Aharon Feldman of Ner Israel flew to Israel specially to address the Anglo community of Ramat Beit Shemesh. He said that the municipal elections taking place tomorrow present a unique opportunity. We can make Beit Shemesh into a Torah City. And we must do so.

I agree.

I want to live in a Torah city. The first of the Aseres HaDibros is about loyalty to God. I want a mayor who fears God, not man. I want a mayor who is not intimidated by violent people who terrorize other residents of the town, who will take a firm stand against them, and who will not campaign in a way that encourages verbal and physical violence. I want a mayor who is honest, not one who states blatant lies to the frum press.

I want to live in a Torah city. The prerequisite for Torah is acting properly with regard to other human beings - derech eretz kadmah leTorah. I want a mayor whose campaigners act with derech eretz towards others, not one whose campaigners refer to their opponents with Amalek and Nazi terminology and imagery. I want a mayor who displays honor and respect for the state that protects him and provides him with an office, not one who proudly and disrespectfully declares that he is not a Zionist.

I want to live in a Torah city. And Chazal say, Im ein kemach, ain Torah. Torah cannot survive without material support. Shuls and yeshivos and schools and chesed organizations need buildings and municipal aid. I want a mayor who is trained and qualified in professional management, who will attract residents that pay taxes and contribute economically, who has a good reputation with the rest of Israel that will attract national support, who gives the city a good name internationally that will attract investment from abroad. I don't want an incompetent mayor that just stuffs people into the city without proper infrastructure, or who is associated with people that make a chillul Hashem.

I want to live in a Torah city. Torah is embodied in Torah scholars. I want a mayor who is associated with rabbonim that honor the Torah that they embody - rabbonim that act with love and respect and care towards everyone in the city, not rabbonim who describe their opponents as animals and lacking sechel and who physically assault rabbis who disagree with them and who relentlessly slander their opponents.

I want to live in a Torah City. The Rishonim and the Shulchan Aruch state that a person should work for a living (Orach Chaim 156; Yoreh De'ah 246:22), because Torah without work leads to laziness, sin and theft. While I will tolerate those who disregard this ruling based upon a poisonous extrapolation of a hora'as sha'ah beyond the circumstances in which it was enacted, I do not want this perversion of halachah to take over and define the city.

I want to live in a Torah city. Chazal say that a father is obligated to teach his son a trade. I want a mayor and a city that encourages schools that fulfill Chazal's dictates, not a mayor associated with those who disregard Chazal and who strongly oppose schools that teach children the knowledge, skills and inclination to work for a living.

I want to live in Torah city. I want to live in a city that lives Torah, not that just learns it. I want to live in a city that brings glory to Torah, not disgrace...."


As read on 'Rationalist Judaism' blog.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Golus vs Geulah

A very interesting perspective: Golus vs Geulah


"If one sees Judaism from a geulah perspective things are quite different.

Suddenly there are all sorts of questions that need to be asked that either haven't been asked
in 1900 years or have never been asked at all. 

What is the Torah approach to a modern national economy?  How does shemitah get properly observed in today's agricultural scene?  What should the proper structure of the army be and what should the roles of men and women be within it?  What  is the Torah approach to foreign relations and international trades?  The environment?  Natural resource extraction?  For people with strong intellects and great imaginations this is an amazing area to bring the halacha into and see what the Torah has to say about the issues.  Such people, unfortunately, seem to be in short supply.

What we have called Judaism for the last 1900 years is a truncated form of true Torah observance which, in addition to personal and community rituals along with a limited set of civil rules, lacks any truly national character.  True Judaism is based on such a character, one in which Jews are not coreligionists but fellow citizens participating in a joint national project."



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Is There a Message Here For Haredim ... In Israel?



Ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities received draft notices to report to the Ukrainian army draft center, according to a report in Maariv.

Yeshiva students from multiple yeshivas in Kiev, including Chabad students, were told to report to the draft center, in response to the increasing tensions with Russia. Unlike in the IDF, Jewish soldiers in the Ukrainian army cannot get kosher food, cannot have beards, and must work on Shabbat – which is they day they clean the base.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Going to prison for doing a mitzvah?


Going to prison for doing a mitzvah?


"Have you heard the news? The United States Government has sentenced a number of Jews to prison for the crime of giving charity. Yup, that's right. These people gave money to charity, and because of this, they were sentenced to prison. This has happened to lots and lots of Jews. You might even have heard of some of them - Bernie Madoff, associates of the Spinka Rebbe, etc.

"Of course, this is a nonsensical way of describing the situation. Bernie Madoff was not sentenced to prison because of what he did with his money. He was imprisoned because of what he didn't do with his money, i.e. to give it to the investors who it belonged to. People who are punished for tax evasion are not being punished for spending their money on houses and cars - they are being punished for not giving their money to the government.

"This is all obvious, right? Yet for some inexplicable reason, the same mistake in describing the current situation in Israel vis-a-vis charedim and army is being committed by a wide range of people.

"I'm not talking about whether it is innately right or wrong, fair or unfair to other Israelis, or strategically wise or unwise to punish charedi draft-dodgers with prison. But in order to have any meaningful discussion about it, we have to describe the situation accurately.

"Nobody is being "sent to prison for learning Torah." They are being sent to prison for avoiding army service. They are not going to prison because of what they are doing with their time; they are going to prison because of what they aren't doing with their time. It's true that they are learning Torah while not being in the army, but it is inaccurate and inappropriately inflammatory to describe this as the reason for their going to prison."

Israli Sovereignty must be applied

Knesset Told: Settlements are Legal
Dr. Harel Arnon explains Judea and Samaria is not 'occupied territory' in the legal sense.

"If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth,” said Arnon. “One of the biggest lies, which is feeding the wild incitement campaign that Israel has been dealing with over the last few years, is that Israel is unlawfully occupying Judea and Samaria, and that the presence of the settlements and of Israelis in Judea and Samaria is a violation of international law. I want to confront and refute the accusation that Israel is unlawfully occupying Judea and Samaria."