Are You Looking for Confrontations?
Question: I heard that the reason the heads of the Hesder yeshiva’s didn’t stand by the side of Yeshiva Har Bracha was because the strategy of the Yeshiva is always to find ways to clash with the army, to provoke trouble, and intensify disagreements. To the point were students would say: “If only I had the opportunity to refuse orders and sit in jail”. This is a position which of course is unacceptable to the other rabbi’s, and furthermore, it embroils the other yeshiva’s in unnecessary conflicts with the army.
When to be Stubborn
Answer: Our students didn’t search for an opportunity to refuse orders and sit in jail. We encouraged them to excel in the army. Even if problems arose, as long as they stem from a lack of understanding, awareness, or a mistake in planning – our students were taught to solve them in pleasant ways, through mediation and compromise. In such circumstances, we taught them to act according to the rules of halacha concerning a “sha’at dachak” (difficult situations), which inclines towards leniency. Generally speaking, this is the source of problems, for the majority of officers honor the Torah and its mitzvoth.
However, when we are speaking about a fundamental position which harms Judaism’s sacred beliefs, such as mixed-gendered military activities, or a command to expel Jews or destroy their houses, or a commander who insists on cursing, not giving appropriate time for prayers, or arbitrarily orders that ‘tzitzit’ must be tucked-in – even for no military reason whatsoever – then our position is that the problem should not be solved by intercession and searching for leniencies, but rather to stand firmly on the Jewish identity of the I.D.F. A solution gained by intercession does not solve the root of the problem; it just allows those who know how to use connections to get along. However, the broad majority of the people end-up deprived, and the Jewish character of the I.D.F. is harmed. Therefore, if an officer insists on not honoring Jewish heritage – then one must refuse the destructive order, even if he has to sit in jail for it. This is not in order to irritate the officers, but rather because it is not fitting to beg for something that justice necessitates. Judaism does not have to stand as a beggar at the doorstep of the I.D.F.
Usually, after the insistence of soldiers who are willing to sit in jail, the problems are rectified in a thorough manner. Frequently, matters that for years were not successfully solved through intercession were achieved by a firm and resolute stand.
In addition to the fundamental truth, it must be understood that there are a lot of people who are in doubt between the position of the Haredim and that of the Torani sector (those who view army service as a mitzvah). The more difficult it is for a Jew who scrupulously guards the Torah and its mitzvoth to serve in the I.D.F., the fewer recruits there will be. Today, the majority of Jewish students going into first grade will attend either Haredi or National Religious schools; this issue has critical significance.
The Positions amongst the Rabbi’s
Indeed, there are differing approaches amongst the heads of the Hesder yeshiva’s. Many of them feel that a great effort must be made in order to avoid confrontations with the I.D.F. and its officers, and in their opinion, almost all of the problems can be solved amicably. They believe that solving problems in this manner is not ‘lobbyism’, but rather the ideal way to resolve problems, both in the short and long term. The mere labeling of their actions as ‘lobbying’ is seen as insulting, for they consider it to be rapprochement and explanation. Although in certain circumstances my opinion is different, I certainly know that their intentions are for the sake of Heaven, and there are probably times when their position is preferable to mine. Nevertheless, it is obvious that through a combination of all of the opinions, we can express the words of the Torah in the most complete and clear way.
Rabbi’s Who Chose the Easy Path
There are a few rabbi’s, however, who chose the easy path, and in order to convince, presented our position in an extreme and distorted manner. In this way, they are successful in convincing themselves and those who listen to them. This path, however, does not lead to a productive discussion, and the truth is absent. And then, of course, there are some who fight back in response to their distortions, but then the rabbi’s become embittered that they are not fittingly honored and there is no unity…