Questions about how Torah-observant Jews can live side-by-
side with those who have cast away the Torah's yoke have
engaged both groups ever since the foundation of the State.
Will endless confrontations about matters of religion and
state continue to be our fortune? Is there any formula for
peaceful coexistence despite all our differences? From the
time the Chazon Ish equated the secular camp to an empty
wagon and the Torah-observant to a full wagon, all of these
weighty questions continually rise to the surface.
Sometimes we feel that the gap is simply unbridgeable. At
such moments we are overwhelmed with hopelessness. Are these
our brothers, our flesh and blood, who are determined to
hurt us and our children? Should we ask them, "Are you with
us or with our enemies?" (Yehoshua 5:13).
We are referring to drafting yeshiva students. Barak and his
colleagues do not hide the malicious joy overflowing their
hearts over the fact that the final date that the Higher
Court had set for enacting a law about deferral from
military service for yeshiva students has come to an end,
making this arrangement that was in effect for more than
fifty years illegal. Despite the threat and decree against
the Torah World, boruch Hashem their studies have not
been disturbed even in the slightest. The Torah assures us,
"It shall not be forgotten from the mouth of its offspring"
(Devorim 31:21). On the other hand, the thought that
perhaps, choliloh, they will succeed in harming or
constraining the young Torah scholars simply elates them.
This is exactly what worries us, what pains us. Even under
normal conditions we are astounded at their insolence in
attacking the yeshivos--the pillar of our existence and
survival as the Jewish Nation. Their proclamation of war
against a handful of Torah students shows an immeasurable
estrangement from Judaism.
This has always been so, but how true is it at this period
when those living in the Holy Land find themselves stuck in
a continuous war against terrorism and are daily in danger.
During such a crisis the attempt to ravage our pillar of
existence, to dance from joy when realizing the possibility
that perhaps they will succeed to disengage yeshiva students
from studying Torah, is truly outrageous.
The concept "not responsible for one's actions" is accurate
for the mentally unfit, for those who when they lose their
control are liable to cause severe and irreversible damages.
Irresponsibility has different levels: One irresponsible
person sees a fire burning in the next-door house and
continues sleeping indifferently. Another irresponsible
person plays with a cigarette lighter near a gasoline tank
although any stray spark can cause an explosion. An even
more irresponsible person is someone who happily warms
himself against the cold when pouring oil on a fire that is
ravaging his own home sweet home.
To the last type belong all those who delight in the "hope"
that they can find some sort of a way to hurt Torah
scholars. Strangely when "on the outside the sword will
bereave, while indoors there will be dread" (Devorim
32:25) they have no other concern but how to undermine the
yeshivos that are the heart of the nation. Why precisely
The well-known statement of Chazal (Megilla 3a-3b)
that a mal'ach in the form of an army commander came
to Yehoshua during the war and warned him about bitul
Torah is relevant here. Immediately, "Yehoshua lodged on
that night within the valley" (see Yehoshua 8:9 and
8:13, and Tosafos s.v. Vayolen)--"R' Yochanan
said this teaches us that he lodged in the depth of
halocho." Specifically during the time of a colossal
war we are required to study more Torah and learn more
intensively. Only through in- depth Torah study will
HaKodosh Boruch Hu save us on the battlefront.
We are amazed to see that at this exact time when political
leaders proclaim that the security situation is precarious
and we should be united, they want to stir up such a
sensitive matter. Although we are concerned that perhaps the
attempts to make decrees against Torah students will,
chas vesholom, awaken Divine criticism at a time of
danger for Klal Yisroel, they are not at all worried.
On the contrary, they are as happy as a lark: Comments like,
"We have managed to frighten the yeshiva students." "Now the
chareidim will sweat," were quoted in the newspapers.
These are moments when you feel the gap between us and them
is unbridgeable. If at such a time they try to undermine the
pillars of our existence and stab a sword in the walls of
the yeshivos, where is there any basis for "coexistence"--
even a forced and limited one?
Lately we remembered an epigram ascribed to Maran HaRav
Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld zt'l. An agent of the Mufti
(the Islamic religious leader of Yerushalayim) presented
HaRav Zonnenfeld with an interesting question/proposition:
"You chareidi Jews, are fighting against Zionism and we, the
Arabs of Eretz Yisroel, are also fighting against Zionism.
Why don't we join together against the common enemy?"
HaRav Yosef Chaim answered: "We are fighting against the
Zionists because they are not behaving like Jews, because
they have severed themselves from their Judaism, but you are
fighting against them because of the little Judaism that has
remained in them!"
In this brilliant diagnosis is hidden an additional point.
Seforim kadmonim write that the war of the nations
against the Jewish People is based upon the hatred of
falsehood for truth. From Mount Sinai hatred descended to
Yisroel since those who inherited false faiths could not
tolerate that Am Yisroel would be fortunate enough to
possess the Toras Emes.
For this reason Chazal bound the hatred of Torah emanating
from those who have removed from themselves the Torah's yoke
together with antisemitism of non-Jews.
Our Sages even write that the hatred amei ha'aretz
harbor for talmidei chachomim is greater than the
hatred nations of the world have for Yisroel. They are
comparable in respect the way falsity envies the truth. When
this is the basis for the hatred, precisely someone nearer
to those who have inherited the truth but have not been
zoche to it themselves can subconsciously cause an
especially fervid jealously.
Although the Torah-observant feel "we are all in one boat"
and have kavonnoh that their Torah study help Klal
Yisroel, and pray for our brethren wherever they live,
some Jews are unintentionally joining the war of the nations
against Yisroel. Our enemies want to wipe out the name of
Yisroel through destroying their body, Rachmono
litzlan, and those fighting us from within, want to
uproot the basis of Judaism, an aspect of burning the
neshomoh and leaving the body intact.
The anti-religious should stop for a while and think what
they are doing and how they have backslided. Just like
antisemites throughout history have despised the Jews and
have used inciting slogans such as, "Jews have taken over
our country and are exploiting us!" (in Russian or Arabic)
against every Jew, our enemies and denouncers from within
our nation scream, "Draft dodger!" toward every ben
This is the big difference. We, as Maran HaRav Yosef Chaim
Zonnenfeld zt'l once determined, will never find a
common denominator with our nation's enemies. The Torah-
observant entreat Hashem that Jews be saved from all harm
and pray for the continuance of Judaism. Those who want to
harm the pillars of Judaism have, however, unintentionally
become collaborators with our enemies and lend a helping
hand to the dreary plots of the antisemites throughout
For us, without a life of Torah, am Yisroel cannot
continue. Maran the Rosh Yeshiva shlita has taught us
that a decree of drafting yeshiva students is something we
must sacrifice our lives for--yeihoreg ve'al ya'avor.
The yeshivos were always the fortress of our existence and
Judaism was protected in its merit.
This is particularly true today. Maran HaRav Y.Y. Kanievsky
zt'l teaches us this lesson in Bircas Peretz
on the posuk, "Yaakov departed" (Bereishis
28:10), something we should review well at such a time. We
see in the campaign against the yeshivos a real war trying
to destroy us, a war that we must endanger our lives for. It
is a painful and more dangerous war than the war going on in
the areas of friction with the Palestinians, but we have
experience in our wars against those who scheme "to make
them forget Your Torah."
All those who want to damage the secret of the existence of
am Yisroel will realize that their scheme will not
succeed. "They slumped and fell, but we arose and were
invigorated" (Tehillim 20:9).