Friday, July 20, 2012

Matos, Bamidbar 31:4. Shevet Levi's Military Service Exemption

This was originally posted in 2011.  I incorporate here the comments, and the response by Dr. Nachum Stone.

The Tribe of Levi did not fight in the Jewish wars.  This is obvious in numerous pesukim in the Torah, such as the many censuses which state explicitly that Shevet Levi was not counted because they were not Yotzei Tzava.  Additionally, whenever war is described in Yehoshua and Shoftim, all the other tribes are mentioned, but never Shevet Levi, not in Milchemes Mitzva/divine imperative war, not in Milchemes Reshus/politically motivated war, and not in Milchemes Amalek/the war against Amalek.

This fundamental rule is crystallized in the Rambam's words at the end of Shmita ve'Yovel:
ולמה לא זכה לוי בנחלת ארץ ישראל ובביזתה עם אחיו? מפני שהובדל לעבוד את י"י לשרתו ולהורות דרכיו הישרים ומשפטיו הצדיקים לרבים, שנאמר יורו משפטיך ליעקב ותורתך לישראל. לפיכך הובדלו מדרכי העולם. לא עורכין מלחמה כשאר ישראל, ולא נוחלין, ולא זוכין לעצמן בכח גופן. אלא הם חיל השם שנאמר ברך י"י חילו. והוא ברוך הוא זוכה להם שנאמר אני חלקך ונחלתך.   ולא שבט לוי בלבד, אלא כל איש ואיש מכל באי העולם אשר נדבה רוחו אותו והבינו מדעו להבדל לעמוד לפני י"י לשרתו ולעובדו לדעה את י"י והלך ישר כמו שעשהו האלהים ופרק מעל צוארו עול החשבונות הרבים אשר בקשו בני האדם, הרי זה נתקדש קדש קדשים, ויהיה י"י חלקו ונחלתו לעולם ולעולמי עולמים. ויזכה לו בעה"ז דבר המספיק לו כמו שזכה לכהנים ללוים. הרי דוד ע"ה אומר י"י מנת חלקי וכוסי אתה תומיך גורלי:

So it's not only Shevet Levi.  This exemption includes all who take upon themselves lives exclusively dedicated to study and religious service.

From this Rambam, all we know is that people who are exclusively dedicated to learning Torah are exempt from conscription.  But what of people who work, but are Talmidei Chachamim?  For that, we look to the Rambam in 6 Talmud Torah 10:

תלמידי חכמים אינם יוצאין בעצמן לעשות עם כל הקהל בבנין וחפירה של מדינה וכיוצא בהן כדי שלא יתבזו בפני עמי הארץ. ואין גובין מהן לבנין החומה ותיקון השערים ושכר השומרים וכיוצא בהן ולא לתשורת המלך. ואין מחייבים אותן ליתן המס בין מס שהוא קצוב על בני העיר בין מס שהוא קצוב על כל איש ואיש שנאמר גם כי יתנו בגוים עתה אקבצם ויחלו מעט ממשא מלך ושרים. וכן אם היתה סחורה לתלמיד חכם מניחים אותו למכור תחלה ואין מניחים אחד מבני השוק למכור עד שימכור הוא. וכן אם היה לו דין והיה עומד בכלל בעלי דינים הרבה מקדימין אותו ומושיבין אותו:

It appears that the concept of "Shevet Levi" applies both to those that are dedicated to exclusive Torah study and also to the Talmidei Chachamim (a contextually sensitive term whose meaning changes according to the time and place, as evident in various applications which I don't feel like looking up now.)

So it is clear that Shevet Levi did not go to war, not Milchemes Mitzva, not Milchemes Reshus, and not Milchemes Amaleik.  What did they do?  They learned and davenned.  As the Gemara in Makkos 10a says, א"ר יהושע בן לוי מאי דכתיב (תהילים קכב) עומדות היו רגלינו בשעריך ירושלם? מי גרם לרגלינו שיעמדו במלחמה - שערי ירושלם שהיו עוסקים בתורה .  But there was one and only one exception:  The war with Midian, as described in our parsha.  Rashi in 31:4 says לכל מטות ישראל: לרבות שבט לוי:.  This is based on Rashi's girsa in the Sifri here (although the Gaon has the Sifri saying the opposite.)   Rashi's Sifri is stating that Levi did not join the battle in other wars, but the war against Midian was the exception.

Another odd thing about this War is that only here are we introduced to the idea of having dedicated davenners for each soldier.  What happened in the earlier war with Sichon and Og?

Of course, the two singularities explain each other.

In all other wars, Shevet Levi had the job of davenning for Klal Yisrael, and there was no need to dedicate a mispallel for each soldier.  In the war of Midian, on the other hand, Shevet Levi was physically invested, just as all the other Shevatim were.  If so, there was no Shevet- there was no eidah- that was completely and exclusively dedicated to tefilla and Torah.  So davka in this war was there a requirement of having Anshei Ma'amad.

One more question: Why was the War of Midian different from all other wars?  Why were the Leviim told to join the war on the battlefield?
The Rogotchover says that this was not a Milchemes Mitzva and it was not a Milchemes Reshus.  It did not have the dinim of Milchama at all.  It was, as he explains here, an action of revenge.  He says it was נקמה, not מלחמה.  It was an infliction of נקמת השם במדין.  He says there are many halachic differences between the two.  Two examples: here there was not din of יפת תואר, and there was no rule of only surrounding the enemy on three but not four sides.

In any case, I look forward for someone to explain to me why the idea of military exemption for Talmidei Yeshivos elicits such anger from other Frum Jews.  I'm not talking about Tel Avivians, who, beginning at around the same age that Dati children are being taught Torah tziva lanu Moshe. are taught to abhor Chareidim.  I'm curious about Frum Jews who hate the Chareidim for avoiding the draft.  Of course, the system is abused, and batlanim and shkotzim and black marketers take advantage of it.  But as far as I can tell, the people who disparage the Chareidim for draft avoidance do so wholesale, not retail, and feel that even yeshiva bachurim who are sincere and serious masmidim ought to be in the army.

Since it's the Three Weeks, and, as I've said, we're fated to be at each other's throats anyway, please feel free to heap invective upon me.  Catharsis is good for you.

By the way: Just as the Eim Habanim Smeicha is endlessly cited in the DL community, here's someone with sterling credentials that says pshat in the Rambam like me:  Rav Tikotzinsky, writing for Rav Herzog.  (An epitaph for Rav Tikotzinsky is here.)  You really don't need rayos that the Rambam means what he says, but there it is anyway.  See also the Ambuha D'Sifri vol II page 518, or here, and the Pnei Meivin in Sanhedrin 20b, here.

Rabbi Yonoson Rosenblum mentioned this issue in an article some time ago.  The full article is located here, and I quote the most relevant passage:

The resentment of those who serve three years in the army – often in circumstances of great danger – towards those who do not serve, is understandable from their point of view. Yet the chareidi world will never agree to dismantle the hundreds of yeshivos built from the ashes over the last fifty years and send our 18-year-olds into the army. If the price of an improved public image is the destruction of the world of Torah, it is a price that cannot be paid. We also have our world view, and know that without the protection of Torah learning Israel cannot defend itself.

The chareidi rejection of army service for 18-year-olds (the traditional draft age) has both a positive and a negative dimension. The positive is the insistence on the incomparable value of Torah learning in Hashem’s eyes. The Yeshiva world rejects the assertion that yeshiva students do not contribute to the national defense. On the contrary, yeshiva students are told repeatedly that their learning is the greatest protection of the Jewish people in Eretz Yisroel. Though it is true that a radical division of labor exists in Israeli society, it is not just between those who serve in the army and those who don’t, but more fundamentally between the 10-15% who are shomer mitzvos and those who are not.

Even at Mercaz HaRav, long viewed as the flagship yeshiva of the National Religious world, boys are strongly encouraged to push off army service in favor of full-time learning during the crucial years prior to marriage, and for several years thereafter.

The negative objection to army service derives from the use of the Israeli army as an instrument of socialization. Chareidim have no desire to have their children socialized to norms antithetical to the Torah and in a spiritually threatening environment. Israel, for instance, has long been the only non-revolutionary society to draft women. The recent push to integrate women into combat units has caused many even in the national religious world to reconsider the propriety of army service.

Nor can we control the irrational aspects of the hatred. A certain antipathy to the Torah and those who learn it is built into the Creation. Where does the name Sinai come from? Chazal ask. They answer: From there sina (hatred) came into the world (Shabbos 89b).
(end quote)

Here's an abstract of some fellow's master thesis at an American college.  Found here.
The haredim in Israel are an ultra-Orthodox Jewish religious group who uphold the most conservative of Jewish laws. Instead of serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as all other Israelis do, the haredim are exempted from the IDF's policy of universal conscription. This thesis proposes three hypotheses to determine why Israel's haredim do not serve in the IDF. First, the haredim do not serve in the IDF because they do not want to; second, the haredim do not serve because they hold pacifistic political opinions; and third, the haredim do not serve because Jewish religious tradition forbids military service. To test these hypotheses, data were gathered by conducting a literature review and studying Israeli newspapers, official Israeli Government statistics, and unofficial public opinion surveys. Accordingly, a close examination of both the haredi worldview and the cultural characteristics of Israel's haredi communities suggests that the haredim do not want to serve in the IDF for self-interested reasons. Furthermore, a survey of haredi political opinions indicates that the majority of haredim exhibit a hawkish and aggressive political orientation. Finally, an analysis of individual haredi voices reveals that haredi yeshiva students consider their Torah studies to be an integral component to Israel's wartime activities. Contrary to the expectations of this thesis, haredi resistance to military service is not defined by an aversion to war or a commitment to peace, and it therefore cannot serve as a model for advocates of conflict resolution to emulate.  

And finally, reporting from Yediot Achronot..........

Comments that came in last year:
Anonymous said...

Okay, I'll try to explain to you the Orthodox resentment as best I can. But firstly, let me just say that I don't think Tel avivians are being taught to hate Chareidim. I think they're being taught to value earning a living. And they look down in those who don't share those values like the Chareidim look down on those who don't share their values. But now to the army issue- I think part of it is simply a numbers issue- if 5% of people were designated "super-learners" and were exempt from the Army- I think a significant amount of the Orthodox opposition would disappear- but it's not the case- with very few exceptions Charedim don't go to the army-period. It's not a select elite- in your words, it's 'wholesale', not 'retail'.Not every Chareidi is a talmud chacham. So it's not a learning Torah issue at all- it's a priority and value issue- it's just not important enough for them to do. And that's the problem. The Dati Leumi know that they are picking up the slack. And thank G-d that they do. Can you imagine what a Chillel Hashem it would be if no shomer torah umitzvos people were in the Army? But that's exactly what the Chareidim seem to want.
Imagine the scene at a dati leumi shiva house for a soldier killed in battle. Imagine it's your child. I'd imagine the last person you'd want making a shiva call is someone who feels that your child is an appropriate sacrifice but not their child.
Not to mention, I'm sure Shevet Levi had a deep appreciation of what the soldiers who did fight were doing. Can you say the same about the fellows in Bnei Brak? Where are the gemachs in Meah Shearim to send pizza and cakes to the soldiers? When was the last misheberach for chayalim in a Chareidi shul?

Daniel said...

Anonymous- If the greater Tel Aviv education is anything like the classes I have at Open University in Ramat Aviv then they are definitely taught (implicitly obviously) to abhor chareidim. Teachers and students alike find no qualms with a nice snide jab whenever the opportunity presents itself (although to be fair that group seems to like snide jabs at alot of other things as well) and I've gotten into more than one or two arguments with instructors who casually tell over very vitriolic rhetoric.

I'd love to see hundreds of thousands of the chareidim joining the army and education system and watch the establishment run in terror from the new ideological changes and influences that such an event would portend. Then you'd find them complaining of too many chareidim in the army who could potentially become a fifth column, with their priorities of Daas Torah and the like. On the whole, they complain because they want to complain and hate, not because they really are interested in having the chareidim join and be a mutual and contributing partner in a joint project called "the State of Israel". The shame is that the chareidim don't call their bluff and take them up on their offer. These are my impressions from the limited exposure I've had. I could always be wrong.

great unknown said...

The last lines of Anonymous's missive open up a can of worms that bothers me also. Where are the tefillot in the chareidi yeshivot for the soldiers. In fact, by what authority were the yeshivot mevatail the tefilla lishlom hamedinah, which is at least a d'rabbanan, and possibly midivrei kabbala?

In my shul, I modified the tefillot for the USA and Medinat Yisroel to exclude the enemies of Yiddishkeit, but we certainly said them.

Anonymous said...

"עיקר ההפרות - לרעת החיילים הדתיים"
"בשנת 2005 מוניתי לראשות מנהלת השילוב הראוי. רצנו במשך שלושה חודשים, יום ולילה, לניסוח המסקנות ולהטמעה שלהן בצבא, ואני יכול לומר בוודאות כי עיקר ההפרות שלהן היום הוא לרעת החיילים הדתיים. רונצקי מונה

כמה דוגמאות להחלטות "מתריסות", כמו שירת ההמנון דווקא על ידי חיילת בטקס בקורס קצינים, למרות שרוב חניכיו דתיים, או מינוי קצינת קשר בגדוד לוחם. "מג"ד כזה אמר לי במפורש: 'יש לי בעיה שהיא איתי ועם עוד שמונה חיילים בפעילות בנגמ"ש במשך כמה ימים. זה לא לעניין. זה פוגע ברמה המבצעית שלי".

לדברי הרב הצבאי לשעבר לשעבר, "מי שמבקש בחינה נוספת של הדברים - בשמחה. שיגיע ליחידות האלה גם הוא ואז יהיה לו ייצוג ונוכל לדון בהכול. זה שוק חופשי".

Chaim B. said...

I wish I had time to write a full response.

>>>Yet the chareidi world will never agree to dismantle the hundreds of yeshivos built from the ashes... If the price of an improved public image is the destruction of the world of Torah, it is a price that cannot be paid.

You have got to be kidding me. It's all or nothing -- either full time learning for everyone, no exceptions, or it's the complete "destruction of the world of Torah". Life must be so easy when everything is black and white, either/or. Hesder, part time learning programs, Torah and... anything -- all worthless.

It's also don't think the charedim perceive their choice as one between competing positive values, i.e. the State and Army are important, but Torah is more important and that is my contribution. I think their attitude is that the State/Army is not a positive value at all. R' Elchanan, the Brisker Rav, were extreme anti-Zionists -- they are the heroes of the yeshiva world, are they not? How can anyone raised on R' Elchanan's mamamarim think supporting Jewish nationalism in any way is a good idea?

I have a 17 year old. Maybe 1 in 20 in his class have the potential to live up to that description of sheivet levi in the Rambam. Do you think in Israel teens are so radically different? What % truly deserve a draft exemption - 10%? 20%? Yet, the chareidi hashkafa has defined the execption as the norm, flipping the system on its head.
Enough of my rant. I should have waited until I was in a better mood to comment.

Dr. Nachum's post on the subject:

In the course of his vort on the unique circumstances of Milchemet Midyan, K’vod Baal Achsanya, HaRav HaGaon B, asked why is it that “Frum Jews [who] hate the Chareidim for avoiding the draft.”
                I would like to try to explain on a few levels. Firstly, no one I have ever met hates the Chareidim for anything. A much more accurate description would be resentment.
                It should be noted that all draft-dodgers are looked down-upon in Israeli society. Citizens protest if non-soldiers are hired for entertainment. Most job applications inquire of one’s military service. It’s just part of a society whose existence is so fragile.
                HaRav B seems to want to include modern Chareidi draft-avoiders in Rambam’s military exemption. [This is not the place to debate that point, but it is not universally accepted that Rambam exempts ANYONE from a Milchemet Mitzvah. V’AKMAL ] I have never heard any of the yeshiva students make such a claim, but to do so  would be ridiculous. Can any contemporary Talmid Yeshiva claim to “פרק מעל צוארו עול החשבונות הרבים אשר בקשו בני האדם”?  These are the same Talmidim who whine when their stipends are 2 weeks late? Who think that all businesses are somehow “obligated” to give them a special discount? Who demand equal funding as army-veteran university students? Are any of them on that level?
                Even if we were to grant that the Rambam Levite exemption exists, it certainly is not obligatory upon anyone to exempt himself. Imagine if these “Klei Kodesh” were in the army. Would it not change the nature of the army to a Machaneh  Kadosh  ? How would motivation change, how would morale change? How would the self-image of these Bnei Yeshiva change? The army already has special yeshivishe units. Perhaps they are not perfect, but if they were more heavily populated, they would function better too!
                The original agreement between the Chazon Ish and PM Ben Gurion was intended to free-up a few hundred superior scholars to replenish the rabbinic cadre after the holocaust. Now, the Torato Umanuto exemption has become an almost mandatory burden on all who would call themselves Chareidi. They are pariahs if they don’t “choose” the exemption. So the system is abused, and the newspapers duly report the sophisticated massive fraud. Fictitious students get government stipends to learn in largely virtual yeshivot. Perhaps the Chilul Hashem drives some of the disgust ?
                Are all the Chareidim being stigmatized because of the abuse of the few? Certainly. On the other hand how many of the Talmidei Yeshivot are true matmidim whose time can’t be sacrificed for communal defense? So the 95% who abuse the system give all the others a bad name!

                This leads us to the heart of the problem. The future Talmidei Yeshivot are indoctrinated from a young age, that they are the true defenders of Israel. Without their precious learning we would lose all our wars!  It’s hard to fault the kids; the ideology is axiomatic for them. So, not only do they not serve. Not only do they not respect or thank those who serve (and die…) but they hold themselves superior.  I think we’re very close to an answer to HaRav B’s question.
     Another point raised was “Shevet Levi had the job of davening for Klal Yisrael.”  I’m sure they did.  Unfortunately, these modern-day self-appointed Leviim have neglected that part of their job. The contemporary non-participants would rather stomp out of shule than daven for the soldiers, even the dead ones. They won’t use a siddur that includes a prayer for our soldiers [really, I’ve seen them check]. I had one guy leave the ammud as shatz one Shabbat [and then the building] when asked to say the mishbarach for the soldiers- in the middle of a war! Yes, in America, there’s more of a chance that the Chareidim will pray for the soldiers, there’s less of a chance that the youth might be tempted to be one. Yet still, those shules that do daven for the soldiers are few.
There’s a strange paradox here.  On the one hand, the individual Talmid Yeshiva can’t be faulted for doing what absolutely everyone around him is doing, what he has been trained to do since birth.  It would be quite radical for him to do otherwise.  Indeed, the few charedim who do join the army probably are trying to get out of the charedi system anyway.  On the other hand, many in the younger charedi leadership have told me that they know that what they are doing is probably wrong, definitely causing friction, and unlikely to last in the long-term.  But they see themselves powerless to change anything; the “street” won’t let them.  So the “street” doesn’t bear personal responsibility, but is responsible for the perpetuation of an intolerable situation that guarantees animosity.  
                We should also bear in mind something very important psychologically- who else doesn’t serve? The Arabs. Who else claims to hate the state and wishes for it to disappear- ibid

Simplistic? Yes. But herds think simplistically.

                To close, I too, would like to quote our parsha: האחיכם יבאו למלחמה ואתם תשבו פה?!


  1. One point I don't think was brought up:
    You admit that there are batlanim, frauds, misusers of the yeshiva exemption system. If you know this, then the Rosh Yeshivas know this. So why don't they expel them and so inform the authorities?

    Is this not analogous to certain communities who claim to abhor child abuse but ostracize anybody who reports it, either as a witness or as a victim?

    Is the refusal to report not equivalent [at least in appearance] to protection the criminals?

  2. Then you have the Jonathan Rosenblum problem. But why nobody- other than Harav Steinman- has the guts and seichel to get involved in developing an alternative, such as Sheirut Le'umi, I don't know. Because we are pathologically and inexorably self destructive, I suppose.

  3. Oh, I remember why!

    This came in the mail a few minutes ago.


    According to a Kikar Shabbat report, the Vishnitzer Rebbe from Monsey Shlita may
    boycott the main Siyum HaShas because �Zionist rabbis� are expected to address
    the tzibur. This apparently may also lead to other prominent rabbonim and
    admorim shlita to boycott the event.

    Until this announcement, residents of Eretz Yisroel were envious of Jews in
    North America which was holding one major siyum for all as opposed to in Eretz
    Yisrael there are siyumim for Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Litvish and dati leumi. The
    rebbe�s announcement however changes all of this.

    Invited to address that forum is Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau Shlita as
    well as Rosh Yeshivas HaMekubalim Ahavas Shalom HaRav HaGaon Yaakov Hillel

    The Vishnitzer Rebbe Monsey, told organizers earlier in the week he cannot
    attend since the �Zionist rabbis� will be attending in an official capacity.

    Leaders of Agudas Yisrael in the United States are working to find a solution,
    and they are quoted anonymously by Kikar Shabbat as saying �we are taking about
    important admorim, rabbonim and mashpi�im, but on the other side of the coin, we
    must remain cognizant of the fact that 80% of those who will be participating in
    the siyum are identified with the Modern Orthodox world, and for them, dafka the
    addresses from these �Zionist rabbonim� as it were is what is drawing them to

  4. 1. The tribe of Levi did participate in wars, see Divrey Hayamim 1:12:27-29 and of course the Hashmonaim. See also Rambam Melachim 8:4 "הכוהן מותר ביפת תואר" and 7:8 (actually a Mishna in Sota) "והמארס אישה האסורה לו, כגון אלמנה לכוהן גדול, גרושה וחלוצה לכוהן הדיוט וכו'" - but these could be explained by אוקימתות as some Achronim did.

    2. How is this compatible with not counting Levites as יוצאי צבא ? Simple answer is that they were exempt only from the war of כיבוש as they were not to get a share in the conquered land. They did take part in any other war, including Midyan.

    3. What about the Rambam in Halacha 12? Good question. The source for this Rambam is unknown, so it's hard to say. However, note that in Halacha 11 the Levites are included, so it could very well be that לא עורכין מלחמה כשאר ישראל only means that they are exempt from *some* wars.

    4. Anyway, regarding Talmidey Hachamim, the Rambam (end of Shemita & Yovel) is a very weak source לענ"ד. If one wishes to claim Halacha 13 to refer to everything mentioned in #12 (and not just for what it says in #13 explicitly), then we should conclude that לא נוחלין applies to them too. Given that Yehoshua, Kalev, Atniel ben Knaz etc did get their part in the land, the only conclusion could be that they were not on a high enough level to be included in #13. Who is, then?

    Besides, it seems unlikely that the Rambam would present such a Hiddush (with no clear source in Shas) out of place, and not in Hilchot Melachim or in T"T 6:10 where it belongs.

    5. Thus, it seems obvious to me that #13 is the Mussar ending of Shemita veYovel, as the Rambam does many times. Halacha #13 says that whoever meets the standards set therein, will be rewarded and Hashem will take care of his needs ויזכה לו בעה"ז דבר המספיק לו כמו שזכה לכהנים ללוים. (This does not mean that other people should see that it is done, as the Rambam clearly forbids T"H taking money from others).

    See also Chasam Sofer ד"ה מנדה בלו

    Having said that, I think the modern question of exemption from Army service is a completely different issue, and should be discussed on a different level. While no one (or almost no one, if you do wish to use the Rambam above) can claim an exemption based on his personal spiritual level, it is up to the ציבור to decide if they want to exempt certain people in the interest of national missions, such as restoring and maintaining the Torah world. However, if this is indeed the justification then (a) it's a decision to be made by the ציבור, which currently translates to the political arena (b) factors such as other public should play a role and (c) the focus should be what would be better to the Torah world, not what would be better to each individual. Are Yeshivos today doing any better due to the forced recruitment of a whole generation to within their walls?

  5. The basic premise of this whole article, which represents the party line in the yeshiva world, is deeply flawed.

    First, in regard to a war that is being waged to defend Jewish lives against those who are trying to kill us, which is the mission of the IDF, it is clearly a Milchemet Mitzva and not a Milchemet Reshus. Here is what the Rambam (Melachim7:4) has to say about that, quoting the Mishna and Gemara in Sotah

    במלחמת מצוה הכל יוצאין ואפילו חתן מחדרו וכלה מחופתה

    Got that? Even women should serve...kal vachomer all men.

    The Shevet Levi "exemption" to the extent that it exists at all, is only for milchemet reshus, which is irrelevant to the IDF, as above.

    Secondly, the Shevet Levi Rambam, which is always trotted out to legitimaize kollels and learning full time, is so clearly not what the Rambam holds in regard to whether it is appropriate for a large group of people to sit on the public dole and learn , that it is laughable, if it was not so sad.

    Here are some quotes from Hilchot Talmud Torah, chapter 2:

    י. כל המשים על לבו שיעסוק בתורה ולא יעשה מלאכה ויתפרנס מן הצדקה הרי זה חלל את השם ובזה את התורה וכבה מאור הדת וגרם רעה לעצמו ונטל חייו מן העולם הבא לפי שאסור ליהנות מדברי תורה בעולם הזה אמרו חכמים כל הנהנה מדברי תורה נטל חייו מן העולם ועוד צוו ואמרו אל תעשם עטרה להתגדל בהן ולא קרדום לחפור בהן ועוד צוו ואמרו אהוב את המלאכה ושנא את הרבנות וכל תורה שאין עמה מלאכה סופה בטילה וגוררת עון וסוף אדם זה שיהא מלסטם את הבריות:

    יא. מעלה גדולה היא למי שהוא מתפרנס ממעשה ידיו ומדת חסידים הראשונים היא ובזה זוכה לכל כבוד וטובה שבעולם הזה ולעולם הבא שנאמר יגיע כפיך כי תאכל אשריך וטוב לך אשריך בעולם הזה וטוב לך לעולם הבא שכולו טוב:

    And that is nothing compared to the Rambam's comments in Pirkei Avos at

    Bottom Line - yes many Gedolim in the Chareidi world have said, for whatever reason, that yeshiva students should not fight in the Israeli army. I am not their Bar Plugta, though I do question the attitudes displayed currently.

    But please - leave the Rambam out of it. He so clearly does NOT support this position.

  6. Eli:
    1. And Kohanim carried the Aron. Exceptions don't mean the rule doesn't exist. I also wonder how long the Shevet as a whole retained its tafkid of exclusive focus on spiritual leadership, and what the consequences are when all that remains is their shevet ID.

    3. You know as well as I do that that is not how the Rogotchover and Rav Tikutzinsky learned.

    4. I suppose that leadership positions, such as being the Kohen that makes the announcements, or Mordechai Hatzadik, or being King, or being the leader of the army, requires abandonment of exclusive focus on Torah.

    5. Interesting Chasam Sofer. Where do you find this stuff? He's referring, though, to taxes, not physical conscription.

    Having said all of that, I agree that times change, and, as Dr. Stone said, there is more than the halacha involved here. I don't know if numbers are relevant; assuming that I'm right, that a person that dedicates his entire time to limud hatorah is exempt, does it matter how many people populate that category? Is the exemption a luxury that must be limited to the few, or a metaphysical truth that applies no matter how many it applies to? I don't know. I also know that if a man came and threatened a yeshiva bochur with a gun, he would not rely on the Mordchai and say that he's pattur from self defense and open a gemara. I wish the hadracha from the Yeshivishe gedolim were more straightforward and not tainted with disdain for the medinah.

  7. Ariel:
    We are familiar with the Mishna in Sotah 44b. I believe the point of the Mishna is that although in some wars we limit participation to those that are without sin, the holy and the pure, but by מלחמות מצוה הכל יוצאין אפילו חתן מחדרו וכלה מחופתה. If so, it is not relevant to the exemption of Shevet Levi, however we define them. In any case, if you looked at the sources I cited, you would see that in interpreting the Mordechai et al, the Mishna is Sotah is not seen as a contradiction to the exemption of Levi.

    As for the "public dole," you know that nobody makes anyone pay for the people in Kollel. Some of us see it as a privilege to support people in Kollel. I, for example, currently support all five of my children, to a greater or lesser degree, and they work harder than I ever did in my life, and I feel honored, even thrilled, that they are learning Torah. I don't need the Rambam to tell me how to spend my money. I agree that the state has no such obligation, but I also know that politicians in Israel buy votes by throwing money at yeshivos. Aren't democracies wonderful?

    As for the Rambam regarding the exemption of Shevet Levi, that you can't disagree with. If you could, you would have to deal with all the achronim I cited. Maybe someone says like you. Who knows? Maybe the achronim that didn't write sefarim agree with you on the topic.

    Whether the deferment of "Shevet Levi" applies to people who do the work of Shevet Levi, again, that is debatable.

    And do me a favor, if you're going to write serious things, don't use an absurd name like Shmendrik. At least שלומיאל was the nasi of Shevet Shimon.

  8. 1. The pasuk in DH talks about ~8300 Leviim and Kohanim (compared to 6800 from Yehuda, for example). Hard to say these were the Mashgichim in the kitchen. Also, I can't accept the Shevet lost its identity in the times of David Hamelech.

    Benayahu, one of David chief commanders, was a Kohen and head of Sanhedrin (see Radak Shmuel 2:23:20 -- ואעפ"י שהיה בניהו כהן ואסור להטמא למתים, להלחם באויבי ה' הוא מצוה, כשצוה הקב"ה להלחם בשבעה גוים ובשאר האומות המצירות לישראל לא חלק בין כהנים לישראל.

    As the rule is nowhere to find (see Radvaz there), there is no need to call all these exceptions.

    3. True, but the way they learn leaves the Rambam with no source, and with a number of psukim and Sugyos against it. If you look for Names, see the Mizrahi on Rashi Mattos who says basically the same, that the Ptor of Levi is related to not getting a part in EY. Same and more explicit in Maharam Yaffe, who connects it with the Rambam in discussion. Another option to explain the Rambam is Rav Kook saying "ונראה שאע"פ שאין שבט לוי עושה מלחמה היינו לעשות מלחמה פרטית, כמו שאפשר שיזדמן ששבט אחד עושה מלחמה בשביל ההתנחלות שלו שימצא בזה. אבל כשכל ישראל יוצאין למלחמה, מחוייבים גם הם לצאת".

    4. While I agree it's possible leadership diminishes one's focus on Torah , I am a bit surprised that you base the ptor to all Haredi youngsters on the assumption that they are more focused than Yehoshua, David, Bnayahu etc etc. These poor leaders all lost their focus (see e.g. Brachos 18b), but our generation's Yeshiva guys are focused, B"H. You then wonder (in the original post) how anyone could think otherwise?

    5. True, but as some use the sugya in BB to explain the פטור based on רבנן לא צריכי נטירותא, it is relevant.

    Anyway, see also Keren Orah ד"ה והרמב"ם:

    To this one should add the numerous Midrashim showing us that the Jewish army was composed of the greatest Talmidey Hachamim of their generation.


    I'll just make my main two points again: (A) Regardless of the pshat in Rambam about Levi, it is hard to accept his comparison to Sevet Levi in #13 means to apply to the three dinim mentioned in #12: לא נוחלין, לא עורכים מלחמה, ולא זוכין בכח גופן אם TH. No one ever claimed that TH לא נוחלים. Regarding לא זוכין לעצמן - I am not sure what it means, maybe Matnos Kehuna. Are these applicable to TH too? I thus claim Halacha #13 stands alone, and is a Mussar ending to Zra'im. (B) The description in #13 does not apply to most Yeshiva Bochrim of our generations. As someone put it - whoever negotiates the terms of his Shiduch cannot claim to be included in ופרק מעל צוארו את עול החשבונות הרבים אשר חשבו בני האדם

    [[Kollel support does not belong to this discussion, but apropos your comment to Ariel, in Israel about 1/3 to 1/2 of the Kollel stipends come from government money, i.e. taxes. Same goes for my own salary though]]

  9. I found today the amazing Netziv (Bereshit 49:14-15)

  10. That Netziv should be put up in Neon lights, not hidden in a comment.

    I'm going to have to figure out what to do with it. I can't wait until Matos.