Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

8 Teves 5761 - January 3, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Internal and External Battle

by Rabbi Nosson Zeev Grossman

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 now?

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 Torah.

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 history.

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).

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