Sunday, July 15, 2012

Talmidei Chachamim don't need protection: Does this provide a basis for draft exemptions for yeshiva students?

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 maxim? 

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.

On 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

Based 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.

8 comments:

Jonathan B. Horen said...

Re: The final paragraph of your post. I disagree. If we agree with the three learning points you've listed, then we should understand that moving the yehivot from the periphery to Jerusalem or Bnei Brak was not "abandon[ing] their posts". Rather, in so doing, they brought the FEBA (Forward Edge of the Battle Area, aka "front lines") closer to the core of their strength and a far greater concentration of Torah "soldiers".

bluke said...

I don't get your point, are you saying it was a strategic retreat? In doing so they were giving up on the city that they were in.

Adam Zur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam Zur said...

i never saw any connection between the special subject of wall building to that of milchemet mitzvah..and i have not heard of any reason why there should be a connection. with all the rhetoric out there i have yet to hear one single reasoned argument that a charedi person learning Torah should be not obligated in any mitzvah and all the more so in what is clearly the mitzvah of protecting the lives of the Jewish people which legally comes under the category of milchment mitzvah.
what i think is going on is people like there comfort zone and don't want it disturbed to have to do something for others.

MIghty Garnel Ironheart said...

The scary thing is that these people spend their lives learning Torah but when it comes time to defend their position all they can do is mangle the sources.

Unknown said...

There is no real reason. They enjoy the status quo and wish it to continue. However, the leaders are against their boys serving because the army is not a kosher place. It is a challenge to keep the mitzvos while in the army and statistically there is higher attrition amongst those who serve. The army wants it that way. They purposely passively permit the persecution of the torah observant. Quote me about Hesder and Nachal Chareidi all you like but these are the facts. Shabbos and Kashrus are not respected by the army and the army rabbinate is chosen by the army to do its bidding and not to be loyal ombudsman of the soldier in a difficult environment (this in contrast to Rav Goren and other early army rabbis). Until the situation changes it is ingenuine of the nonreligious to complain about chareidim not wanting to serve.

Unknown said...

Unknown states: "The army wants it that way. They purposely passively permit the persecution of the torah observant."
This is so not true!
As a father of 3 religious soldiers, i can tell you that in almost all cases the army purposely goes out of its way to accomodate religious soldiers!
The main problem is that (as long as the chareidim refuse to be part of this important mitzvah or hatzalat am yisrael) the religious soldiers are still a minority (as is true in the general public as well) and they therefore have to deal with many (icluding many of their officers) who do not appreciate Torah and mitzvot. This sometimes leads to uncomfortable situations (and in a very few and minority of cases even to some conflict).
But to present the army (or the non-religious public for that matter) as having its main agenda to opress the religios - is just a lie fabricated in order to justify your actions and quell your conscience.

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