Monday, May 06, 2024

The More Things Change...

Rav Yitzchak Yosef (Screenshot -YWN)
It pains me to say this - but I do not recall ever seeing such a divide among the Jewish people in my lifetime.  A divide not only between religious and secular or heterodox Jews... a divide not only between Charedi Jews and  religious Zionist Jews. But a divide even among Charedi Jews. with near identical Hashkafos

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. Controversy has always dogged  even the most religious Jews among us. Even within a singular subgroup. All we need do is look at the enmity between the two Satmar Rebbes (who are brothers). Or the extreme animosity between the Gerrer Rebbe and a relative he perceives as a potential rival to his leadership.  Or in Israel between the mainstream Yeshiva world and the Jerusalem (Peleg) faction.

But still, I don’t think the divisions have ever reached this point. The reason we seem to have descended to this level of animosity toward each other is the war in Gaza. Army service for Charedim is now a serious consideration. There are two streams of thought about this.. One is that Charedim should never serve for a variety of reasons. The other is that perhaps there is room for moderating that view

I had seen the latter as a sea change in the Charedi attitude. I though that the wall of Charedi opposition  had finally been pierced. That Charedi leaders would acknowledge that the army was not the exclusive ‘social engineering’ agency they had been saying it is. That it actually served its purpose as ‘advertised’. Which is to protect and defend Jewish people.

While there may be some residual social  engineering motivation among a few old guard anti religious army officers, Charedi leaders now realized that this was by far not the purpose of the army. And perhaps they were now taking a second look at all the religious soldiers that  were serving honorably while remaining entirely observant. And that there were indeed sincere attempts by the IDF to accommodate Charedi recruits through special units.

That allowed a few prominent Charedi voices (politicians and pundits) to say that perhaps they should allow some Charedim to serve the military.  

I thought that was huge. An opening that would spur a lot of Charedim to enlist that might not have otherwise. In fact it had already begun happening shortly after October 7th  when about 1000 Charedim actually enlisted. (if I recall correctly).

That and the manpower shortage in the IDF would - I thought - lead to some sort of meeting of the minds whereby a compromise between the Isaeli government and the Chaedi leadership could be reached. 

Happy ending?  Hardly. Hard core Charedi leadership has doubled down on their opposition to Army service. Adding insult to injury the following happened: 

While delivering his weekly Motzei Shabbos Shiur, Hagaon HaRav Yitzchak Yosef spent a few minutes discussing the Nissim that Klal Yisroel has witnessed the past few months.

Rav Yosef made it clear that these miracles are only due to one thing: Bnei Torah, and Bnei Yeshivos.

“Thirteen thousand rockets have hit our country. There should have been hundreds and thousands of people killed, and Boruch Hashem we have seen incredible miracles. In what Zechus is this? In the Zechus of the IDF Chief of Staff? In whose Zechus? In the Zechus of the Bnei Torah and Bnei Yeshivos, who are sitting and learning Torah! This is the correct Hashkafah.”

“I said this a few weeks ago, and I was attacked in the media by some Hesder Roshei Yeshiva and demanded that I retract what I said. But I said under no circumstances will I back down and retract. I repeat and will say it again, that everything we survived in this war that our enemies rose up against us in the north and the south, all the Hamasnik Arabs and we survived, this is only in the Zechus of the Bnei Yeshivos. They protect all the soldiers and all the people of Israel.”

“Whoever does not believe in this is an Apikores.” 

I have said this before. But it bears repeating in the context of Rav Yosef’s comments. I am certainly not going to dispute the value of Torah study. Or even that it provides protection to our people. But i do want to express my profound disappointment with his lack of appreciation for the ultimate sacrifices of the IDF. Many of whom were actually observant Jews. In fact I believe that their casualty numbers exceed their proportion to the general population

Not only did Rav Yosef not recognize this – he implied their service and sacrifice is irrelevant. That it is  ONLY those who study Torah that protects the Jewish people. And that people who don’t recognize this are heretics!

I cannot image the pain Rav Yosef must have caused to parents, husbands, wives and children  that have lost  loved ones in battle. I cannot imagine the damage he caused to the fabric of the Jewish people who - since October 7 must be living in a perpetual state of anxiety

He has surely poured gasoline into the open wound of a nation by refusing to recognize those ultimate sacrifices. 

There is no question in my mind that without an actual military, Israel would be lost. No less a Charedi Gadol than Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, ZTL  made that observation. In the aftermath a war and in a very public way he thanked both those who study the Torah and the IDF for protecting the Jewish people. Was he a heretic for recognizing the IDF contribution?

If Rav Yosef believes that the Torah study of the tens of thousands of Yeshiva students alone - is what saves the Jewish people from disasters, where were they on October 7th? Mars?

I don’t know. Maybe he thinks they should have been learning instead of celebrating Simchas Torah that day!

I guess the more things change the more they stay the same. Or maybe even worse!