Monday, July 29, 2013


Ask a Yeshiva Boy: Why are You Exempt?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths


Continuing our ongoing conversation with Yeranen Yaakov regarding exempting, or not, yeshiva boys…

(Yaak’s article here, mine here.)

Yeranen Yaakov wrote

The idea of learning Torah is a value in and of itself. One does not need to learn "for someone" in order to get the benefits of Torah learning. The learning itself is beneficial and should be the cause for giving thanks.

In fact, the gemara in Sota 21a says that the benefits of Torah learning is greater than those of doing Mitzvot. Helping others with Tefilin, distributing sweets, dancing with soldiers, etc. are wonderful things. However, none compare to the Mitzva of Torah learning. We know that Talmud Torah Keneged Kulam.

You mentioned those who prayed and learned with the soldiers. This is wonderful. Those who are on the level of teaching Torah to others, Bechavod.

Here's a point you probably don't understand, coming from a Chabad background. Most Yeshivot don't encourage younger boys going out to the community to teach Torah - until they're in a community Kollel setting - since that would limit the quality of their Limud Torah. And quality counts. There is a concept of Bitul Torah Be'eichut (learning Torah, but not on the level that one can learn Torah is considered Bitul Torah Be'eichut).

Whether it's better for younger boys to go out to the community or to stay in the Beit Midrash is a larger Mahloket than one between me and you. Much greater people have debated this. Please understand that it is not black and white and that there is merit for just staying in the Beit Midrash, especially for those not able to teach, but even for those that can, it is an Ark of protection from the outside world, in order to nurture one's Torah, so that they can go out to teach later in life.

Why Yeshivot in Ashkelon and Ashdod evacuated? I don't know. I believe they were given a heter to do so by one of the Gedolim. Perhaps, they didn't believe in their own protection. Does that negate it? Absolutely not.

In summary, the spiritual protection is not dependent on whether they do OTHER THINGS for the community. The fact that they are doing THIS THING - i.e., learning Torah - shows that they care for the future of Kelal Yisrael. And even if they didn't care for Kelal Yisrael, which I doubt, Torah learning is STILL beneficial.

Therefore, please thank your local Yeshiva boy who is learning, regardless of for whom he's learning.

Reb Akiva responded…

While I won't disagree with your points, we do not live in the time of the shvatim. If they expect to _voluntarily_ be treated NOT as Shevet Levi, but as the Kohanim (not going off to war and living off the trumah of the rest), they're going to have to share more than just a locked-away spiritual value.

By the way, I fully agree and don't expect yeshiva bochrim to be running off to do outreach or Torah classes, or comforting during war efforts. We'll leave that to Chabad and Breslev, they're strong enough and prepare for it. But 25 year old married kollel men are a different story (they’re not boys to be protected).

It's a very tough position to say you want to stay isolated, receive the safety benefits of the country, use the semi-free health system, receive support payments, AND religious payments, and then say you do not want to contribute defensive personnel even to units that meet a reasonable set of religious needs (though it's not a good environment, and it's certainly a foreign not-isolated one - but the country can't choose to disband it's army and live), and don't want to provide any societal benefit that the average person can see or appreciate.

The last IS the point. If you want my secular co-workers from Tel Aviv to be willing to support AND exempt, then you've got to do SOMETHING to show you CARE and want to provide them a direct value. Doesn't have to be a big one... Torah classes, support during tough times, heck just visiting the army bases before the holidays to show support and appreciation (like Chabad going to the bases to bring sufganiot for Chanukah and to shake a lulav for Sukkot).

Yaak responded…

I hear what you're saying. My point, however, is that we must convince ourselves of the truth that Limud Hatorah is beneficial first before we can convince the secular public of it. Hence, the "Thank a Yeshiva boy" idea.

Reb Akiva responds…

Interestingly we had a discussion on exactly this topic after Mincha during Pirke Avos.  We know there were righteous individuals, we know them from Torah and Midrash, between Adom and Noach, and between Noach and Avraham.  Yet Pirke Avos tells us there were 10 generations without a righteous man until Noach, and Noach was only righteous in his generation, and another 10 generations until Avraham without.

What was the difference between Noach and Avraham, and between the other righteous that are seemingly ignored?

…Their light didn’t radiate outside their tent’s.  Their “Torah” was only for themselves.  They studied but did not share…

…and are not called righteous in the Mishne.


  1. Again, Akiva. I'm not arguing on that point. (And I'm not quite sure why it's so important for you to keep making separate posts about our discussion.) Nor do I see how your response disproves mine.

    What I'm arguing is that Yeshiva boys need to be thanked REGARDLESS of their PERCEIVED contribution to their surrounding society. Their contribution to society is a fact REGARDLESS of how the rest of society perceives it. Therefore, they should be thanked.

    I agree with you that those who are able to teach should teach and share their knowledge. However, according to many Derachim, in order to get to the level of being able to teach requires many years of intensive study within the walls of the Beit Midrash. Chabad sends boys out earlier. Eilu Ve'eilu, as I said.

  2. I think learning Torah on the level that YY thinks they are on should be selfless, for the sole purpose of uplifting and sustaining the world. But in these days and in this generation we need those dedicated to learning as well as those who can spread Torah and bring our brothers and sisters closer.

    YY, even Rabbi Yosef had a dream, that famous dream, that Torah bochrim need to GO OUT and bring the Torah principles and ideal to those in Eretz Yisrael who know not. You must admit to that dream's intended message from Shomayim.

    More later, have to go now.

  3. Of course, Neshama.

    I'm not sure why you think I would disagree with that.

    However, those who think that learning Torah for its own sake is worthless cannot be more wrong.

  4. Yank,
    I don't understand you dismissing this: Because the bocharim were NOT sent into Israeli schools to spread Torah principles voluntarily by their Roshei Yeshivos, (in accordance with that dream) they are now being FORCED to mingle with those children who are now in the IDF; by being recruited they will be forced to stand up for Torah laws and middos amidst those that do not know and do not care. IOW by making a Kiddush HaShem in the area most needed. If you revere everything Rabbi Yosef says, and relate to him as a Gadol HaDor, what happened to this directive from Shomayim??

  5. Neshama,

    You would like to interpret the dream in the way you want. However, that is not exactly what the dream said, and definitely not how it was interpreted by the one who had it.

  6. Yaak: Then what does this mean?
    "'Because there are a million Jewish children who do not say the Shema Yisrael every day - because of this, I have not come. Go tell all single Yeshiva students and Avrechim to go out and bring people closer to Avodat Hashem"

    Did they do this?
    Did they try to bring closer all the lost sheep?
    No, the quarreling, name calling, dramatics continue.
    Even Rabbi Grylak wrote that the hilonim think the Haredim hate them, and we're shocked when some haredim actually reached out to them.
    This animosity has been festering for many years.
    Haredim have a responsibility to bring the estranged back home!

  7. There are ways to bring people closer without taking Yeshiva boys out of the Beit Midrash and interrupting their learning. There is Bein Hazmanim, weekends, etc. It certainly does not mean to interrupt their learning schedule.

    Why are you making this into a Haredi/non-Haredi issue? Everyone religious, who has a love for HKB"H, has such a responsibility!

  8. Neshama,
    In the Rav's dream as it was reported here, he was told that Avrechim (married men) should go out to teach Tora.
    No one ever dreamed of sending out Bachurim!

  9. Last week's Mishpacha carried a story who's primary focus was a group of yeshiva bochrim who were struggling over their lavish bein hazmanim trips versus a less affluent member of their group struggling to join them. Their dilemma, whether to do the Grand Canyon or stay on the East Coast to accommodate their poorer friend.

    An attitude dropped repeatedly in the story was "my parents are already paying $15,000 for the tuition, obviously spending $2,000 for a vacation is reasonable and expected" - and obviously scholars such as them need the downtime to unwind properly and prepare for the next year.

    Should I sacrifice my tax money and give thanks for their Torah learning?

    BTW, what learning is protecting me when they're hiking the Grand Canyon? Or perhaps they can publish a vacation schedule so we can increase our own learning at that time?

  10. Yaak, ok, ok...
    I'm not against bochurim learning; I believe it is wonderful and necessary. It's what G-d wants and It nurtures the human soul, and is supposed to cultivate a somewhat better human being. This whole struggle is coming out of desperation and a loss of patience by the regular Israeli. And is most definitely a "Haredi/non-Haredi issue".

    Yaak, your idea of 'outreach' is sorely inadequate; you are simply not understanding the depth of the issues here in Eretz Yisrael. The distance is taking a toll on perspective.

    Dan G, ok, so, are (did) the avreichim doing (do) this? Was the "Dream" taken seriously? Is there follow-up on this?

    I truly believe with all my heart, soul, and intelligence, that HaShem wants these two disparate populations to somehow get together out of (Dov's) common decency and for the sake of bringing the Geula. Some of the angry statements made by Lapid are, I believe, hints of what the problems are that need to be addressed. We are getting down to the wire in this challenge called life and things need urgently to be changed in Israel. I'm very upset by the hatred that is mushrooming.

    I can't find the quoted text, but it was the Baal Shem Tov who said (to his talmidim, in the forest) that it would be his own people who would be holding back the Geula in the end of days.

    Because there are serious issues, we cannot let them slide.

  11. I live in E"Y (I'm also charedi), and I personally think that when we try to figure out what message Hashem is sending us with the decree of gius bnei yeshivot, yaak has come closer than most - if we were to take our Tora learning more seriously, and truly believed in its ability to physically protect Am Yisrael, this decree would not have come to pass.
    But I'm not sure, now that the decree is out, that in order to cancel it it would be enough to just show our appreciation of Tora learning by saying thank you to yeshiva boys.
    Maybe this appreciation now requires more solid proof, such as yeshiva boys making Kiddush Hashem by willing to going to jail if they're forced out of yeshiva.


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