Monday, January 05, 2009

Below The Gartel

In light of the current war, I noticed (via Josh/ParshaBlog) that some are using this as an excuse to question and/or bash Charedim and their approach to learning vs. serving in the army, due to the fact that many yeshivos are fleeing from areas which are in range of rockets to the North. JewishWorker:
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.
These criticisms seem to be below the belt and unfair, if not stupid. Whatever one's opinions are on serving in the IDF vs. learning Torah, this seems to be a misrepresentation of the Charedi position and an illogical conclusion regardless of the Charedi position. As it was presented to me, part of the Charedi position on serving stems from the ability of the army to function without them. There is no need (and to a large extent, desire) on the part of the IDF to enlist thousands of Charedi yeshiva bochurim into the army. That said, they recognize that every person should be doing their part in the servicing of the country, and feel that the best way for them to do so is to learn, which is an integral part of keeping the country safe.

Regardless of whether this is true or not, or whether one agrees with the line of reasoning or not (or even if one agrees that that is the line of reasoning!), the suggestion that moving out of the range of rockets somehow undermines the Charedi position is mind-boggling [and stinks of Charedi-bashing]. Certainly, learning Torah is not magic. Nobody [normal] would suggest moving the yeshiva bochurim to sit on top of tanks to protect them. Simply having a number of bochurim in a yeshiva in Ashdod or Ashkelon or wherever will not create an invisible bubble shield around the city to keep rockets out - or even around the yeshiva building. It is not unreasonable to suggest that many of the same people criticizing them now would criticize them for relying on such ideas and putting themselves into danger if they remained.

As is clear from this post on VINNews (also via Josh), which details what different yeshivos are doing, the primary question each yeshiva is debating is whether the danger from the rockets warrants uprooting themselves to move North for the time being. Yes, Torah "protects" - but it doesn't justify or allow putting one's self (or leaving one's self) in a makom sakanah (situation of danger). Moreover, one could just as easily argue that for them to carry out their 'duties', they are best able to do so in areas where they don't have to be concerned about safety, where there are no distractions from a rocket landing nearby, where they aren't rushing every couple of hours into bomb shelters. The idea that Charedim taking the same types of precautions as any other Israeli citizen in a time of war is somehow hypocritical to their position seems to be rather ridiculous.