Thursday, October 14, 2010

Shutup and Listen to the Gedolim

I sometimes wonder how anyone can take seriously people like Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky. I say this with no disrespect intended. He is apparently involved in Kiruv - outreach to secular Jews. He works very hard in trying to influence them to be observant. My understanding is that he is very successful. But for me his simplistic approach to Judaism should - it would seem - chase most intelligent people into running the other way.

I say this in light of a response he gave to a letter written on behalf of a Dati (Modern Orthodox) woman in Israel who questioned why Charedi boys do not serve in the army while close members of her family do. Her questions were sincere and deserve an honest explanation of why a Charedi Yeshiva student’s blood is redder than her husband’s.

His response in a nutshell: Because the Gedolim said so. Very little explanation - practically none - to her well thought out challenges. Just – The Gedolim all agreed and since they know more Torah than you (or anyone else), your challenges are to be dismissed.

Oh… he has some ‘explanations’ that talk about the importance of Torah and overvaluing the military. But in essence he dismisses her concerns in an almost insulting manner – calling them emotional.

My guess is that Rabbi Orlofsky never served in the army. Nor do any of his children. He has never felt the pain of losing a child in battle, or via a sniper’s bullet, or the pain of a child suffering a permanent injury that will affect him for the rest of his life. He has never been in the position of a parent who agonizes about a son being captured by the enemy and tortured to death or kidnapped while on duty as was the case with Gilad Shalit.

May God protect Rabbi Orlofsky, his children, and all of Israel from any of that.

I’m sure he has felt strong sympathy for Jewish soldiers and their families who have suffered this way. He has a Jewish soul and a Jewish heart after all. But it just isn’t the same when it happens to others, no matter how one is affected by it.

Not being personally affected allows him to trumpet Torah learning and so easily put it ahead of risking one’s life for their people.

I want to be clear about this. I firmly believe that learning Torah is an important piece of the pie. The Zechus of learning Torah is indeed protective. But so too is the Israeli soldier with a gun who sits on the border between Israel and Gaza. As the great Gadol and Rosh Yeshiva of Mir, Rav Chaim Shmulevitz once said publicly (and famously) at a Seudas Hoda’ah - there are two armies - the army of Yeshiva students and the army of the Israeli military. Both are needed. And both are to be appreciated and thanked.

The difference between the two is that the ‘soldiers’ of the Yeshiva are protected and relatively safe from harm by the soldiers of the military who put themselves in harm’s way every single day. There is a lot more Jewish blood flowing from the military side than there is from the Yeshiva side.

It’s not that I necessarily dispute the legitimate Gedolim that Rabbi Orlofsky references as opposing army service. It is the attitude expressed in his response to a Dati woman concerned with the lives of her loved ones that is so troubling. He does not speak to any of the issues I have just mentioned. He basically says to this mother, ‘What do you know?’ ‘Shutup and listen to the Gedolim!’

Nothing about the legitimate question she raised about the importance the Gemarah places on army service – perhaps even placing a greater obligation on the religious Jew than the secular Jew. His response is primarily that the Gedolim obviously knew all of this and still came out against army service. So Shut up!

He does offer an explanation of sorts. He says that their opposition to army service was based on the fact that learning Torah is more important. That without it, Israel’s army would be worthless.

That may have been one reason. But isn’t it possible to suggest that there were other concerns for their total opposition? Like the fear that the army was highly conducive to making Jews go ‘Off the Derech’? Isn’t it also possible to say that the Gedolim of that era feared that drafting the then small number of Jews in Yeshivos would completely decimate the system and destroy all Torah learning? Maybe they simply wanted to rebuild the yeshiva world that was lost in Europe during the Holocaust and believed that drafting everyone would have destroyed that goal? It also might have had something to do with their opposition to the State - which they considered anti religious.

I’m sure that these and many other reasons were on the minds of those Gedolim when they came out so strongly against army service. But Rabbi Orlofsky ignores them all. He also minimizes the value of the Hesder Yeshivos where army service is combined with Yeshiva. The Hesder Yeshiva movement wase founded by Rav Chaim Goldvicht – a Talmid of the Chazon Ish - with his blessing even if not as a L’Chatchila.

And what about Rav Ahron Leib Steinman? Is he not a Charedi Gadol? He endorses army service in many cases via Nachal Charedi. This is an army program designed for Charedim who want to leave Yeshiva or Kollel and eventually get a job.

Rabbi Orlofsky’s approach to this issue is typical of a certain type of Charedi mindset that never asks questions about anything a Gadol says. No explanations necessary. It is as though asking for a clarification or trying to explain their words is a Chutzpah.

People bleed, but he heeds. And he tells a woman - whose loved ones are soldiers risking their lives so that his loved ones can stay safe in the Beis HaMedrash - to shutup and stop being emotional.

He is in Kiruv?! And successful at it?!