Monday, July 23, 2012


Still Not Self Sacrifice

by Reb Akiva’s Daughter (with some editing and annotations) @ Mystical Paths

th (3)Some of the comments on my article about religious army service, That’s NOT Self Sacrifice!, reminded me of an 8th grade teacher (rabbi) of mine in yeshiva.

He taught us, a room full of 8th grade girls, that our sole goal in life was to get married and serve our husbands completely so they could learn Torah.  He also told us to forget any halacha (Jewish law) or Torah we knew, for we certainly couldn’t have learned it or understood it properly, and just listen to what he had to teach.  (This is not an exaggeration, he literally said this to us and repeated it to my father when he came for parent teacher conference.)

But such value will only be achieved by me sacrificing for it, if I choose to do so because I see the value, not by belittling me into it.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe answered literally tens of thousands of people seeking wisdom and brachot (blessings) every week.  Yet he not infrequently gave an answer (with a few variations) that some found surprising.  It goes like this, “consult with a doctor who is a friend”, “get 3 expert opinions and follow the majority”, “consult with your rav and mashpia (personal spiritual advisor)”.

There is a special wisdom, and yes blessing, in not always answering directly or with Ruach HaKodesh, but in strengthening people to use appropriate local resources – both spiritual and worldly – to bring the right answers.

A commentor asked if I challenge whether the gedolim of this time are always to be followed.  Yes and no.  Let me explain…

If I go to a Gadol Torah (a Torah spiritual leader) and ask about shalom bayis (family relationship issues), halachic issues, educational or moral issues, or Torah questions – our Gedolim are the leaders, the wise men and the moral authorities of our Torah communities.

But should I consult with a Gadol Torah about the best rifle type for an Israeli combat unit?  (M-16 long or short, or Tavor?) 

It seems to me that the majority of the gedolim of today are not involved in today’s world.  They’re surrounded by handlers and protectors who keep them isolated and limit the flow of information to them.  This may be a blessing and benefit for their Torah study, but may not provide them with the basis of information to make decisions that require secular knowledge as well as Torah knowledge.

WE HAVE A COMMANDMENT FROM THE TORAH TO DEFEND OURSELVES.  Even if we are only being raided to steal straw on Shabbos, we’re commanded to violate the Shabbos to defend our towns, homes and land.  In Israel this is not theoretical, there are people trying to kill Jews EVERY SINGLE DAY. 

In the Israeli war of independence, every healthy Jew picked up a gun and fought.  Plenty of those men had payos and kippahs (sidelocks and yalmukas). 

For the past 63 years, the charedi (ultra-orthodox) community has had the privilege of not doing so.  Their numbers were not significant enough that it made a big difference.

Thank G-d that has changed.  The ultra-orthodox community has grown by leaps and bounds.  And if they (we) don’t stand up and start to take part, it will make a difference, a big difference.

As the numbers continue to grow, we must grow into the role of leaders as we become more than just a tiny minority.  We must learn to defend ourselves and the country.  For if not, who will?

Prayer and Teshuvah help.  Yet while the Jews of Shushan fasted and prayed, they also gathered their weapons and put on their armor.

כל ישראך ערבים זה לזה

I think that means we all have to take part.

It’s time to stand up and do our part.  Yes, our way.  The most kosher food (glatt chalak), the highest standards of Shabbos observance (compatible with an army and life and death conditions), a proper tznius training environment, times for prayer and study. 

My grandfather, a”h, survived the Holocaust and was a talmid of the Ponevitch yeshiva.  He survived the Nazi’s (y”sm) in the Kovno ghetto and Dachau.  His sister, a”h, when the Nazis (y”sm) came ran off to the hills and joined the Partisans.  While he was struggling to survive the ghetto and death camps, she was struggling to kill Nazis.  He surely would not have told her “it’s not tznius”, “girls shouldn’t pick up a gun”, “just daven and learn Torah and it will be all right.”

th (1)We have a religious duty to protect our lives.  In Boro Park, Williamsburg, Crown Heights, London, and Baltimore, the religious Jewish communities have organized Shomrim – a private community policing service.  Why?  Why not just pray?  Why not just learn?  Isn’t it enough???

In these communities there’s threats of (semi-random) violence and theft, inner city crime levels.

Yet in Israel, where they are literally trying to kill us (every single day), it’s religiously prohibited to take steps to defend ourselves?

(I don’t mean to make Israel sound unsafe.  But it’s safe exactly because a very large number of men and women are working hard every single day, with blessings min hashamayim, to keep it that way.)


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  3. I absolutely agree

    As demographics is destiny, the Ultra-Orthodox should be prepared to assume the role of proactive worldly leaders / warrior-scholars from the entrenched secular establishment in the near future by defending the country in tandem with maintaining their observance, even the Hasmoneans fought on Shabbat against foreign rule when they quickly realised that they would be wiped out if they didn’t fight back and we as a people throughout history have always been prepared to take up arms against our enemies even after the Roman-Jewish wars.

    Does anyone seriously expect the Ishmaelite (or the world for that matter) will spare the lives of even the most Anti-Zionist of Ultra-Orthodox or Secular Jews from their murderous designs, especially when most of the world even now associates Jews as a passive insular defenceless people who can be harmed or murdered without consequence and whose protection is dependent on the whim of non-Jewish or sell-out Jewish rulers / powers?

    Sanctifying the mundane, which is the goal of the Jewish people also extends to self-defence.

  4. Gd willing, you will one day be Prime Minister of Israel :)

  5. I'll read your post in a minute, but wanted to let you know: Do you have your gas masks handy?

  6. We had an amazing couple from Yerushalayim this last Shabbat. They are extremely active in chesed organizations, and have reared 11 beautiful children, beli ayin hara. I love speaking to the Rebettzin as she is all about solutions, so i asked advice on my 16 and18 year olds and was not dissappointed. But whilst disscussing options for my eldest who is Please G-d going to sem in Eretz Israel (her very first time in Israel) the army issue came up.......ooopppps all of a suddenly we were in different worlds and she is strong, but so am I. Bottom line I took her through the whole process and when finally I pointed out how we were warriors in the time of Yehoshua she quickly stopped me and said yes but they were Talmidei Chachamim......exactly said I and thats what we have in our Yeshivas.
    It is time to change the balance and retake our place in a position of power. My dear wonderful young lady, Hashem Bless You and all our children who put their lives on the line every single day for the safety of Am Israel. Big hug from the Rock of Gibraltar xx

  7. You mentioned the Jews of Shushan, who picked up weapons.

    OK but lets look at what really happened. Those weapons were picked up AFTER the salvation was already brought down through spiritual forces.

    Look at the medrish. Mordechai Hatzadik gathered thousands of children to learn Torah at night. Despite Haman chaining them. And threatening them ...

    At that point Hashem got up from his throne of harsh decrees (gevurah) and sat down on his throne of mercy. Because of the Torah learning.

    Only now - the stage was set and everything worked out OK. In the merit of listening to the Tzadik of the generation who people laughed at years earlier since they said he was out of things. That was when Mordechai advised not to go to the banquet of Achashverous. And Chazal say going to the banquet was a spiritual cause for the decree to kill all of the Jews.

    And later on, even Queen Esther warned Mordechai against sack cloth near the palace. But we saw afterwards that his spiritual awareness and activities are what brought about the salvation of the Jewish people.

    The true Tzaddikim of the generation know more than we do.

    There are, unfortunately, false leaders who give bad advice. We need to find the true tzaddikim.

    You mentioned the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I would be interested what he said about service in the Israeli army, if you can please give a comprehensive answer, with direct quotes.

    All the best,

  8. Ben:

    Lubavitcher Rebbe, Toras Menachem - Hisvaaduyos, 5742 (1982), Vol. 3, p. 1744 - online here with English translation approved by the Rebbe.

    The soldiers who have been privileged to protect Jewish towns at the risk of physical self-sacrifice will no doubt continue fulfilling their duty and mission of ensuring - by natural means - the security and welfare of the Jewish people, and will no doubt maintain this activity until its completion.

    It goes without saying that they fulfill their duty and mission in the spirit of the verse,"[Some rely upon chariots and some upon horses,] but we [rely upon and] invoke the Name of the L-rd our G-d"; likewise, "We raise our banners in the Name of G-d." They do not believe that "my power and the might of my own hand have won this wealth for me." Rather, they know that so long as we are still surrounded by the doubled and redoubled darkness of the era of exile, the Holy One, blessed be He, wants physical armaments to be used and action to be taken - according to the laws of nature - to ensure the security and welfare of Jewish people.

    G-d grants His help when Jews tackle their defense tasks with the realization that He is the source of their strength and when they fulfill His directives. These include the directive that it is forbidden to cede territories which are part of Eretz Yisrael (or territories vital to its security) and which He gave to the Jewish people. This prohibition is in effect now, too, when we are still living in the era of exile. (The fact that we are still in exile explains why some regions of Eretz Yisrael have not yet been given to the Jewish people, for this must wait until the coming of our Righteous Mashiach.) To resume the above thought: When Jews tackle their defense tasks with the realization that the source of their strength is the power of the Holy One, blessed be He, He sees to it that they will have no need for actual armaments, for the mere knowledge that such armaments exist will cast fear and dread on the other party, to the point that they will flee for their lives.

  9. Very good Akiva, I liked that. Akiva (The Rebbe) and Gibraltar have the right ideas! We need to elevate the army to it's once great biblical stature.

  10. What bothered me about your previous post was that you didn't take the effort to be respectful towards Talmidei Chachamim. You could have written" with all due respect to these Gedolim b'Torah but I am confused by what they are saying and write why you are confused. To write that you were furious is disrespectful . You are not allowed to disrespect Talmidei Chachamim.Stop judging others who don't feel like you. You don't have the right to say that they are not doing mesiras nefesh.

    While the IDF does have SOME accomodations for the religious. They aren't always good about it.. Your brother for one. A recent article where soldiers were forced to work on shabbos. Just recently the IDF rabbinate forbade the soldiers from reciting Avinu Malkeinu ... they took Hash-m's name out of the Yizkor prayer.

    In order for the army to a be a true defense of this country we need to have the army under the direction of ONLY men who are Yirai Shamayim.. not ANY seculars who don't believe in Hash-m..

    I suggest you look at the beginning of Sefer Yehoshua where Hash-m tells Yehoshua that he will be successful when he keeps the Torah and does not deviate from it not to the right or the left..

  11. Anonyomous - so your suggestion is to disband the army and rely on yeshiva learning (since the IDF is not exclusively run by tzaddikim?)

    BTW, do you GUARANTEE that the yeshivot and all their talmidim are learning 100% l'shem shamayim and with complete kavanah at all times? (And are being operated 100% kosher in all business, financial and tzedakah matters at all times?)

  12. Akiva, thanks for your answer but your answer did not answer my question.

    The Rebbe, as a great leader, described the good points of the soldiers in the Army. Very good. With explained to us important hashkofa that, unfortunately, is not always found in the IDF.

    My question was something else. When a yeshiva bochur, or religious girl had to make a choice to go into the army, do we have any idea what advice he gave? Did he agree with the Chazon Ish about 60 years ago that drafting women into the army was yahrog v'lo yaavor?

    All the best,

  13. no, I am saying that unless the army is run by the religious then it is not being run properly .. if it is not being run according to the Torah then the army isn't really protecting us but putting us in danger.Just like the secular soldiers can follow the army protocol they can follow the Torah "protocol" as well. Unless it is being run that way it is unfair to require all men to be soldiers. Just because you decide that you can deal with the situation as is does not mean that others should have to.

    You are a frum person advocating Torah and doing kiruv.. yet you think that an army that is supposed to be defending the holiest land on the face of the earth can be run without completely following the directives of the Torah? That really doesnt' make much sense.

  14. Anonymous - ??? If it's "putting us in danger" then clearly it should be shut down, right??? Because "putting us in danger" is worse than doing nothing? Right? (Follow through your logic there.)

    "can be run without completely following the directives of the Torah" - no, the article clearly says the opposite, no compromises should be made and there is no reason the army of Israel can't be run according to the highest Torah standards. (BTW, does this mean soldiers should be able to rape [one time] captured female enemy civilians? Because that is also the Torah standard.)

    "does not mean that others should have to" - who decides who's blood is redder? Is it the tinok she'b'nishba raised in Ramat Gan who is a kind person who helped local handicapped children, or the yeshiva bocher in Sanhedria who skips out on shiurim and night seder, hangs out at the kiosk smoking and gets his thrills by yelling insults at besulot on the bus who's socks have slipped out of place?

  15. Akiva,

    Your attacks on Anonymous sounded more like shouting than logical.

    1. Do you have the backing of your Lubavitcher Rebbe in what you wrote?

    2. Your statement on "shutting down" is also a question appropriate to ask the Rebbe. It would be interesting what he said on such topics. I don't think he told Yeshiva men and Jewish women to try to change things by enlisting ...

    3. your BTW does not apply today, as far as I was taught. Milchomot Mitzva in the time of moshiach, and even then - well let's wait and see why it will probably not happen.

    4. This whole argument has ignored a most important point I once heard from Reb Nati. It says in Likutei Moharan, Torah 2, the main weopon of Moshiach - is prayer. And Reb Nosson writes in the Kitzer Likutei Moharan, Torah 2, the main weopon of every Yid is prayer. So even though there is an "army" it is prayer which is the most powerful thing.

    5. Finishing off with a story: Once the talmidim of the Chofetz Chaim (or perhaps a different tzadik) came to him complaining about a play put on by the maskilim. That the Jews went to war. Then they announced that new chasanim could leave, etc. and after all of the announcements there was left on stage only 2 old men with long beards, The Brisker Rov and the Shaggas Aryeh. The curtain went down to big applause. The Chofetz Chaim heard - and smiled. He said - the play is accurate. They just forgot the end of the story. These 2 Tzadikim and Talmidei Chachomim ... won the war.

    I want our children to grow up, if they can, and be in this last category.

    All the best,

    PS I am still waiting for a quote on what on the Lubavitzer Rebbe said about army service for Yeshiva Men, and Jewish Women.

  16. Ben, I'm just asking people to follow their thinking through to it's logical end.

    Every Gadol Torah has been and clearly is against drafting women. I'm not aware of a statement by the Rebbe about it, but the general position is well known.

    I'm not aware of explicit statements by the Rebbe regarding going in for IDF service. I'll ask my rav.

  17. Akiva,

    Thanks for your answer. But I would disagree with you on one point.

    You wrote: "Every Gadol Torah has been and clearly is against drafting women."

    Perhaps it would be more accurate to say: "Every Gadol Torah has been and clearly is against JEWISH WOMEN SERVING IN THE ARMY."

    All the best,


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