Aug 27, 2007

this weeks outrageous statement by ROY

This weeks Saturday night drasha by Rav Ovadia Yosef is creating quite a happens fairly frequently.

Rav Ovadia is a fairly "charif" (spicy) rav and he often says sharp things in his weekly drasha. The media is always there waiting to here some spicy quote. Sometimes they take it out of context, but they often share with the rest of us who were not there what he had to say that week.

This week, Rav Ovadia said that the soldiers of the IDF die because "they do not keep the Torah, they do not keep mitzvos, they do not keep shabbos, they do not daven daily, they do not put on tefillin, so is it a surprise that they die? If they repent they will all live good peaceful lives."

Rav Yosef also compared the army to the armies of Israel of old and said that "the armies of yore were armies of tzaddikim and God-fearing men. Anybody who was not such a person was sent home from the army.."

He concluded that "when soldiers are believers and daven, Hashem helps them in battle. They do not get killed. One needs to be clean (spiritually I guess) to go to war."

I am not nearly as close to God's ear as Rav Ovadia Yosef is, so he probably has more of a right to speak in God's name than I do. However, I do find the statement problematic.

First of all, what about religious soldiers who die? How does he explain their deaths based on his theory? Many parents of religious soldiers are outraged by Rav Yosef's statements. One parent said, "I invite Rav Yosef to light a memorial candle on my son's, Yoni's, grave. Yoni was an alumnus of a yeshiva, donned tefillin, kept shabbos, davened daily, kept mitzvos."

Second, what about all the deaths (not army related) in the religious world? Recently we had the summer vacation and there were numerous deaths of yeshiva students on tiyulim or in car accidents. The chareidi newspapers eulogized all those young men with descriptions of how they were the best boys in yeshiva and were righteous and dedicated to the Torah, etc. Were the papers not telling the true story? Were these students really heathens? maybe in public they lived the lives of tzaddikkim but in private they transgressed everything? I would not want to cast doubt on the lives of the poor souls who died, but how would Rav Yosef explain their deaths?

Third, if the Jewish army is best prepared for battle when the soldiers are religious and God fearing and righteous, etc., then what right do the religious parties have to push for deferments/exemptions from the army for the yeshiva students? They should be forcing them to go to the army because they are the only ones who can protect Israel!

Fourth, the deferments the chareidi world get from the army are based on the idea that "by our learning Torah we are protecting the soldiers and all of Israel, better than if we would be in the IDF." What happened to the protection from the yeshiva boys? If these soldiers are dieing because of their not being religious enough, shouldn't the yeshiva boys Torah study be protecting them?

While it might not be my place to criticize Rav Ovadia Yosef, I would like some clarification as to the points above as to how that fits in to his theories...


  1. i must say this is slightly out of place for you i think. Its not unsual for someone to blame all the problems of our world on not doing enough mitzvot. He could have just as easily said that soldiers are dying because we aren't learning torah enough. Or because we aren't giving enough kavod to our tefilla.
    But i have a simple thought... Rafi, what if ever soldier in the army kept one shabbos and davened and wore tefillan every day for one week... i refuse to believe that wont have a profound impact on the entire country. He just wants them to be more religious... the statement doesn't bother me as much, because its just a mussar shmooze.

  2. it could be it would have an effect. my point was not that we would not be better off if everyone was religious or how great our army would be if it was made up of religious soldiers..

    it is disturbing to me that 1) a rav that promotes the most frum boys not going to the army is now accusing the soldiers of not being righteous enough and that being the cause of their problems. and 2) the insensitivity of blaming their deaths on a specific cause when he really has no way of knowing, and it makes no sense based on other incidents.

    True, Rav Yosef has made such statements in the past, I remember there was one about the holocaust victims not being frum enough or other such things. Maybe he was just giving a mussar shmooze. Shas is putting out statements saying exactly that - he just wanted people to improve their tefilos. You know what - he could have said how great of a danger the soldiers are in and everyone should daven for them. He could have done a lot of things. He made a very insensitive statement. Maybe he just has no tact and was misunderstood.

  3. Its interesting to read how blithly his comments are wiped away....I see nothing in his comments that haven't been said by other mullahs who have god's ear. History has taught us that there are always good reasons for for jews to die. And frankly its refreshing to hear it from a 'religious' jew and not from a nazi or a terrorist.

  4. Rafi,
    Actually, in an article in Mishpocha the Rosh Yeshiva where four of the young were learning seemed to say that it was laxity during Bein Hazmanim that led to their deaths. (Even though, for example, they had switched off driving so each would be able to learn.)

  5. something sim happened here in the states a wile back. a family was killed in a helicopter crash at the grand canyon. A stupid principle here publicly stood up and said - see what happens when you promote gashmiyus! The family was supposed to travel in Israel, but due to one of the various conflicts didn't, and instead stayed closer to home, spent less, and a shorter trip. yet gashmiyus killed them. This idiot is not on ROY's level at all, yet we all know what God wants and why.

    My issue is the WHY. If ROY says we should do x,y,or z to be better people , fine. But to say why something happened? I thought Ruach Hakodesh wa gone. Why would God deem it nec to supply ROY with that info and not, say, the lottery numbers for a poor family?

    If the soldiers were all frum, there'd be no army!

    I know YAAK will or should jump in here to defend ROY, but the fact is this is something we should just hear and move on from. If he's too great to question, than he's too great to understand.

  6. Shaya,

    or another option is that he is not great at all...

    he may be quite intelligent and clever when it comes to the topic of the judaic library, but that does not make a person great. There are many rotten people who are/were brilliant thinkers... like goebbels or torquemada

  7. Dan G.

    Your mild comparison of ROY to the vermin you mentioned is beyond disgusting an I call upon Rafi to remove from his blog.

    You write,
    "While it might not be my place to criticize Rav Ovadia Yosef, I would like some clarification as to the points above as to how that fits in to his theories..."

    What you really said was,
    "While it might not be in my place, I'll do it anyhow..."

    If you really seek clarification, speak to ROY and ask him what he meant instead of publicly criticizing him on a blog that he doesn't read.

  8. anon,

    rafi was speaking "bi'lishon bnei adam". really it is his his right to question and ask for clarification. he was just being polite. One of the rights frum jews have is to question even if we must follow.

  9. would it have been less disgusting had I been wearing a black hat? Apparantly that is the determining factor as to whether or not one is vermin.

  10. Shaya,
    "really it is his his right to question and ask for clarification. he was just being polite."

    I couldn't agree more. My point was only that one who seeks clarification should go to the source, not a skeptical public. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what the responses will look like from people like Dan so if he really just wants honest input he could say something like, "If you have an idea that might shed light on this statement please comment..." and avoid the very real possibility of Lashon Harrah and Bizui Talmidei Chachomim.

  11. Why is it so hard to understand what he said that it needs clarification.

    The problem with all these pilpul questions people have is that its like being asked,"have you stopped beating your wife?"

    it doesn't take a genius to figure out the response of a "believer" in which case a man can say any evil hateful malicious rotten thing he wants and its ok. Like Torquemada who cried over the killing of jews wailing,"why won't these misguided souls accept the truth set before them" Sure their weremany in the church who thought torquemada was "spicy" and over the line, but he was such a righteous man. The only diffrence here is the name of the religion, the philosophy is exactly identical. But does it matter to a believer? no,it doesn't take a genius to figure that out at all.

  12. anonymous - can you get me an audience with ROY? I have tried in the past to no avail...and even if I did gte to speak with him, they have already been explaining his words to be referring to biblical times and not today's army. Again, if you listen to the shiur itself, as I did, it sounds like he is referring to nowdays, so I do not accept that explanation. But you are welcome to.

  13. when the guys told me what ROY said and asked how i felt about it it i said - thats interesting, i thought bullets killed people


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