Is it a Mitzvah to Serve in the I.D.F.?

As a result of Yeshiva Har Bracha being denied the opportunity to continue in the I.D.F. Hesder program, and consequently, turning in to a ‘yeshiva gevoha’ (a regular yeshiva), I received a number of questions, and I will attempt to answer a few of them.

Question: Is the mitzvah from the Torah to serve in the army nullified just because of the problematic personality of the Minister of Defense Ehud Barak?

Question: Can it be said that you have finally opened-up your eyes and understood what the Haredi public hasalways claimed – that Torah study is the most important thing?

Question: Was it worth speaking about the obligation of soldiers to refuse orders to evict Jews from their homes and criticizing the I.D.F., thereby losing the opportunity to fulfill the great mitzvah of serving in the army?

Answer: It is a great mitzvah from the Torah to serve in the army. There are two mitzvah’s which stand at the foundation of this obligation – each one of them being a general mitzvah which, in a certain way, is equal to all the other mitzvoth. Firstly, to save Israel from its enemies; and secondly, to guard the Land of Israel so that it remains in the hands of the Jewish nation.Although great damage was caused to the I.D.F. by taking a central role in the crime of the expulsion from Gush Katif and Northern Samaria, nevertheless, the army’s main goal is still to defend the nation and the land, and therefore it is a mitzvah to serve in the I.D.F. However, in order to repair the extensive damage, the responsibility has been placed upon our shoulders to strengthen the position that totally rejects the expulsion of Jews from their homes, and to voice criticism of the I.D.F. when necessary – not to agitate, but rather to safeguard the army’s sacred mission, and to ensure that corruption does not cause further erosion.

The Importance of Standing Up for One’s Beliefs

Even if expressing this position causes the nullification of the ‘Hesder’ program, it still must be voiced. Firstly, because there is a mitzvah to learn and teach Torah and to transmit the words of our rabbi’s – that it is forbidden for a soldier to expel Jews, and it is forbidden to agree to have soldiers forced to transgress the Torah. Additionally, this position can actually help the I.D.F from falling further, by not continuing to destroy itself with such repulsive actions. As the great Sage, Resh Lakish said (Tractate Menachot 99b), sometimes the cancellation of Torah is its fulfillment, and therefore Moshe Rabbeinu broke the tablets. Likewise, at times, refusing an order is precisely the act which can help guard the I.D.F. in preparation for its true mission. Similarly, the soldiers who are not willing to leave Yeshiva Har Bracha, and therefore are presently sitting in jail, are helping to protect the goals of the I.D.F.

In any case, even in the framework of a ‘yeshiva gevoha’, the students will find a way to serve in the army, just as the students of Yeshiva Mercaz HaRav found a suitable way to serve in the army while fully expressing Torah values without compromise.

The Use of the I.D.F. against the Settlers Corrupts the Army

The I.D.F. has a mission, and when it is used for different purposes – or worse, for purposes that are under dispute nationally – it corrupts the army. This is one of the central reasons for the failure of the I.D.F. to gain a decisive victory over our enemies in the last confrontations.

When the singular goal of the army is to fight the enemy, the entire military mechanism strives towards the strengthening of the I.D.F., whether it is in developing battle techniques, increasing deterrence, and in the time of need, defeating the enemy. Accordingly, decisions are made who to promote and who not; then, the senior officers are focused on the goal, and there is a good chance they will succeed. The politicians, however, gradually inserted the I.D.F. into operations against the settlers, and consequently, corruption amongst the senior officers grew.

It’s very comfortable for the government to pit the army against the settlers. By doing so, they merit sympathy from the majority of the public which supports the I.D.F. However, this destroys the army itself. Hereafter, an officer is not judged only due to his success against the enemy, but also by his success in defeating the settlers and advancing the political positions of the Minister of Defense.

An Example

Let’s say, for example, a Brigadier General planned an action to destroy a house in a settlement. He planned everything properly, generated deceptive movement of the forces, maneuvered, and before the settlers could call for help, the soldiers burst forth suddenly and began to destroy the house. Some settler youth resisted, attempting to block the bulldozer; women yelled at the soldiers, saying they were partners in a crime and complained, asking why hundreds of soldiers are sent to destroy Jewish houses, while the Arabs are allowed to build freely without permits. The brave soldiers were extremely insulted, nevertheless, with great ingenuity, they successfully overcame the disturbances. While they struggled with the settlers, the bulldozer completed the destruction of the house.

At the end of the successful operation, the spokesman for the I.D.F. arranged for the Brigadier General to be interviewed by the media, or requested that he deliver comments in the name of “senior officials of the I.D.F.” Given the opportunity, the Brigadier General sharply accused the settlers, saying that instead of thanking the soldiers for protecting them, they prevented them from fulfilling their job. Of course, in all fairness, he emphasized that not all the settlers are extremists and cause public disturbances. However, he blamed them for not up-rooting the “wild weeds” that have grown amongst them, which threaten the I.D.F. and Israel’s very existence.

Now, my fellow readers, what do you think? Would the Defense Minister call the Brigadier General in the evening in order to express his heartfelt appreciation for him? Would the fact that the Brigadier General helped the Defense Minister advance his political agenda, win him special treatment in the coming round of military assignments? When the Brigadier General recommends advancement for one of his officers, will his recommendation receive exceptional notice? When he requests new equipment for his unit, will he be favored? It seems to me that the answer is clear. This is what destroys the I.D.F. An officer must be highly principled not to go astray in these matters.

Comparing the Right to the Left

Question: I heard an interview with a Brigadier General who claimed that he cannot accept refusal of orders. Just like the I.D.F. cannot agree to leftist soldiers refusing to serve in the territories, so too, it is impossible to agree to right-wing soldiers refusing to evacuate settlements. Shouldn’t we take this claim into consideration?

Answer: This claim, uttered by many officers, shows just how damaged the senior command of the I.D.F. really is. One who compares the refusal to participate in the principle task of the I.D.F. – facing the enemy – to the refusal to carry out a civilian task against a soldiers own countrymen, has completely forgotten the role of the I.D.F. Perhaps he has forgotten that the letters “I.D.F.” stand for the “Israel Defense Force” …

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