The Gemara in Bava Basra 7b discusses the need for building walls around a settlement. Since walls are for communal protection, all residents have to share in the cost of erecting them. However, the Gemara rules that Torah scholars are exempt from this expense, since they are protected by virtue of the Torah they learn. This is quoted l'halacha in Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 243.
The question that we need to ask is does this provide a basis for draft exemptions for yeshiva students?
In the past I have posted about this very issue. See the following posts:
Torah scholars don't need protection - does this apply now during a war?
When does תלמידי חכמים אינם צריכים שמירה not apply?
Yeshivas are moving north out of danger, what about the protection of Torah learning
Here is a summary of the main points of those posts.
R' Zevin in a famous essay says writes the following.
When actual lives are at
stake, may we rely on miracles? In 1929 at Hebron... didn't young
students of the yeshiva, whose holiness shone like stars in the sky,
fall before the malicious enemy? Please, did these martyrs need
protection or not?... If you understand that the scholars don't need
protection in relatively peaceful times and are exempt from building the
protective walls, what consequence has this when compared to a
life-and-death struggle, a war which is a mitzvah and in which all are
obligated? The defense authorities ordered everyone to cover all windows
as protection against shattering glass in case of an air raid. Would
anyone think that some rabbis will not do so, claiming, "Rabbis do not
need protection?" ...Why did rabbis leave areas under enemy fire along
with the rest of the general population? Why did they not rely on this
R' Aharon Lichtenstein wrote:
It may be stated... that such a claim (that since rabbis "don't need
protection" they should be exempt from military service) raises a very
serious moral issue. Can anyone whose life is not otherwise patterned
after this degree of trust and bitahon argues for exemption on this
ground? Is it possible to worry about one's economic future - in evident
disregard of Rabbi Eliezer's statement that "whoever has bread in his
basket and says 'What shall I eat tomorrow?' is but of little faith" -
and yet not enter the army because one is presumably safe without it?
I saw the this in a Charedi publication. The following interesting halachic question came up. There was a wave of burglaries in a particular Charedi neighborhood so
the residents decided to hire a private security company. However, then
the question of how to apportion the costs came up. Since the Gemara
says that תלמידי חכמים אינם צריכים שמירה and the majority of the people
in the neighborhood sit and learn in kollel (and presumably have the
status of Talmidei Chachamim) who should pay?
R' Elyashiv answered as follows:
The principle of תלמידי חכמים אינם צריכים שמירה only applies in a normal
situation, before there is a rash of burglaries. However, now that there
already was a rash of burglaries it would be considered a נס for the
talmid chacham not to be harmed. Therefore the principle of תלמידי חכמים
אינם צריכים שמירה does not apply and everyone has to pay equally for
the security company.
If תלמידי חכמים אינם צריכים שמירה doesn't apply to a rash of burglaries then how much more so it doesn't apply to a situation of war.
Last but not least the Charedi Yeshivas themselves don't believe this. During the Cast Lead operation in 2009 many of the Charedi yeshivas (Grodna, Petersburg,Belz,Ger) in the South (Ashdod and other places) temporarily moved to Yerushalayim or Bnei Brak for safety reasons.
one hand the move is understandable, with rockets landing in Ashdod
they wanted to move to a safer place. However, on the other hand, this
raises some serious questions. The Charedi world justifies the draft
exemption for yeshiva students based on the following:
1. Torah learning protects everyone
2. The boys are engaged in מלחמתה של תורה
3. Talmidie Chachamim don't need protection
on these it would seem that the Yeshivas should stay where they are. If
the boys who are learning are engaged in war just like the soldiers why
should they abandon their posts? In addition if Torah learning
protects, let them stay where they are and be protected by their Torah.
Their move undermines the claim for draft exemptions and looks very bad.
The soldiers are entering Gaza to fight while the yeshiva bachurim are
fleeing to safer havens.