May 7, 2009

Rabbi tells soldiers not to act Jewish

A short while ago there was a notice in the news about the IDF enforcing policy about beards. Soldiers in the IDF are not allowed to have beards unless they meet certain requirements. The army rarely enforced this and similar rules.

In an effort to improve the level of discipline, the army has decided to enforce these rules. no more beards. No longer being unkempt. No more letting things go. but because we live in a Jewish country, and the IDF has plenty of religious soldiers and wants to keep good relations with them, they had to show some flexibility on that. So they came up with a set of exceptions. Religious soldiers are allowed to have a beard, as long as they get the approval of their commanding officer.

Along comes sefirat ha'omer when we show outward displays of mourning, such as not shaving and getting haircuts, and suddenly we have a problem. People who were able to shave as per the army rules until now, suddenly cannot. But they do not have permission to let it grow out.

Yisrael HaYom newspaper wrote today about an incident in the army in which 6 soldiers affiliated with the Conservative movement wished to get permission to not shave during sefirat ha'omer. The army rabbi refused to give them recognition as religious soldiers and therefore their request was rejected. the rabbi said that he does not recognize the Conservative Movement as religious and therefore they cannot be considered religious. (they have appealed and are waiting for a response, but in the meantime they have had to shave because of this ruling).

I do not understand this rabbi's position. I understand he does not want to give any tacit recognition of the Conservative Movement - just like most Orthodox rabbis have the position of not sharing a pulpit at events with Conservative/Reform rabbis so as not to be perceived as approving of them in their positions. He thinks that by approving the request of 6 individual soldiers, he will be perceived as approving of the whole Conservative Movement.

It was not the Conservative Movement asking permission to be recognized as religious soldiers. It was 6 individual soldiers. And if they asked if they could put on tefillin, would the army rabbi not allow them saying they are not religious so they are not allowed? If they asked for time for davening, would he reject that as well?

These were 6 individual soldiers. Since when do we reject the right of individuals, no matter their affiliation, to perform mitzvahs (granted, not shaving during sefira is not actually a mitzvah per se, but it is a widespread Jewish custom)? What right did this rabbi have to reject the request of an individual to follow Jewish tradition?

The rabbi should be applauding every occurrence of his soldiers trying to keep tradition and custom, and not rejecting it.


  1. can you link to the source?

  2. I only saw it in a hard copy newspaper, and they do not have a website. I'll see if I can find it elsewhere, or get a new copy and scan it

  3. Would the same Rabbi not allow them time off to attend their sons brit, or to sit shiva?

  4. It could be he sees they don't really keep kosher or Shabbos and are just using this as an excuse to not shave. Others may look at both Orthodox and Conservative soldiers and say that niether are shaving, but some don't keep Shabbos, obviously "it's not so important".

  5. When i was served 10 years ago in a combat unit, many of us would stop shaving for the omer. I dont recall any issues, except one year, a officer pulled us aside individually and asked how many days are the omer. Those who knew the answer got to go unshaven, those who didnt were sent to shave. Definelty no army rabbis around. I dont know why i always here about army rabbis this, and army rabbis that. In 3 years of duty , including tours in Lebanon and Hebron, i never once met a army rabbi.

  6. the army decided a few months ago to start enforcing this. when you served it clearly was not in force, but now it is

  7. B"H

    Thanks for the post.

    I would like to encourage you, as I have with other fellow bloggers, not to call them "rabbis."

    Arutz 7 says they do it for clarification purposes.

    I say call them "religious leaders," or "spiritual leaders," or put "rabbi" in quotes or parentheses leHavdil.

  8. hey check this out

  9. I tend to agree with "Bin". I can't believe that this story is the way it was reported in Yisrael HaYom which is a typical, low quality Israeli newspaper, even if somewhat to the "right" of the others. If these soldiers kept the mitzvot, i.e. shabbat, tefillah, tefillin and proper relations with the female soldiers, I don't beleve the IDF rabbi would care if they called themselves "Conservative" or not, so I have the feeling that they were not comporting themselves like dati soldiers, but when the chance came to get out of shaving, suddenly they were concerned about this custom, which is not even a mitzvah from the Torah. Newspapers are always glad to have a chance to bash the Orthodox/religious.

    I heard it said in the name of Mark Twain "people who don't read newspapers are uninformed, people who DO read newspapers are MISinformed.

  10. Y Ben David.
    I disagree: these soldiers enlisted as part of a Conservative garin, in all likelihood that means that they take their Conservatism very seriously, and in all likelihood they follow the rulings of the Israeli Conservive movement, which in matters that do not involved egelatarinism do not steer that much from mainstream Halacha.
    Most Americain Conservative Jews don't keep Conservative Halacha, and even US Conservative Rabbinic Assembly claims that one only needs to follow Sefira restrictions until Yom HaShoa, but the Israeli movement is much more halachic than its US counterpart.

  11. its nice to see charedim talking about the conservative as if you know or have taken any time to understand them. Your rabbis dont even acknowledge their rabbis, probably because they know as much about conservatism as their followers do.

    just for the record rafi, opa didn't shave for omer and ezrat israel was always affiliated with conservative movement. so who is anouther jew, esp from a small minority of the whole, to decide what makes you a jew and what is important within jewry.

    so yes, the charedim have political power in israel and control all the apparatus of social life, marriage, school, death, identity of jews etc

    i wonder if they would be okay when the wheel turns and they become defined as a cult and not real jews and have to abide by conservative rules to get along in society?

  12. Way - I don't know that the rabbi involved was a haredi rabbi. he was an army rabbi and remained unidentified. Many (most?) army rabbis are Religious Zionist, not haredi.

    the rest of it, not haredi related, is the point I was making.

  13. I have,...and no, I'm not going to say how.

    Reform - do what you want {since the '80's, they've tried to add a little frum poserisms, and the word "spirituality" has become increasingly acceptable, if not trendy}

    Reconstructionism - do what you want, but try to find a source for it after you decide what you want to do. If anyone presses you on the source that you didn't find, ignore them or shout at them "you're trying to silence me" or "I will not be marginalized by you." {Women are also required to flash their unshaven armpits at you for emphasis.}

    Conservatism - distort the oral Torah - do what you want, but find your source for it first, yet JTS students are required to outfrum the frumeh b'Farhesiah. If you're not accepted, then the frumeh our "out of touch with present day" reality and remind everyone that "we follow the rabbanei hador" and that all of our "rabbis" can trace their so called "smeeeeeeeeeeeecha" back to orthodox "smeeeeeeeeeeecha" thus we're all really orthodox rabbis. And if no one accepts that, then ignore the frumeh, and stand firm in your belief that the Laws and Standards Comm. has the standing of the Sanhedrin {see above}.

    P. S. I was disappointed in the "Responsa" on ordination {what a goyshe word} of women. The three writing in dissent only seemed to have one problem with it, that it would hurt the legitimacy of "Conservatism" in the eyes of the "orthodox."

    Too bad, real sources that I can recall.

    Typical,...nothing less than gaivadik mordim.

    Oh, just one more thing,...there's no such thing as "Conservative halacha." There's halacha and there's distortion of halacha {when hashqafah rules over it}

  14. ummmm dude,ben, that was rhetorical....y'know? I stipulate that there do exist the charediim that are knowledgable in conservatisim, as there are individual charediim that admit the world once had dinosaurs and earth is over 5000 yrs old. As a group and the leaders of the group however are not informed at all.

    that being said I wholeheartedly disagree. As someone who is completely 100% secular you can argue all you want that your halachik sources for waving a chicken over your head are correct and the other guys (or gals) is not, but I dont recall there being a halachik source for pruzabel. And i could name loads of "laws" in the ortho halachik world that are more christian than one wife fer example...or the whole attitude to sex in general. So while you might excell in judging the nuance of others thoughts you still are judging them by your standard as a minority community. I in the majority of jews do not judge you as harshly for choosing to live like some bastardized form of christian want to call that jewish or charedii or whatever then go right ahead, but its no more halachik than any other law a community decides upon.

  15. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

    You're right about polygamy. Rabbenu Gershon's taqanah is over, and there is question as to how binding it was in the first place.

    I do not wave a chicken over my head, which I am against, nor do I say Tashlich for that matter.

    Prozbul was established by the Sanhedrin under Hillel. There is NO stirah with the issue of the cancellation of debts at the end of Shemitah.

    1. The beth din is requested to begin the process of debt collection before the end of Shemitah. It may then continue the process after Rosh HaShannah of the "8th" year.

    2. In any event, the laws of Shemitah {which are now mi'deRabbanan, and thus we're more lenient anyway with situations of doubt} are binding on Jews, not entities such as batei din.

    OTOH, there ARE "laws" which really aren't laws, and are silly customs without a lot of basis in halacha, and should be disregarded, or at least re-examined. And, yes, that includes a few pagan rituals {costumes and drunkeness on Purim}, I am embarrassed to say.

    Surprised by that last paragraph?

    We may disagree, but you won't catch me being inconsistent {or pagan},...because I'm not, or at least I try very hard not to be.

    I'm an equal opportunity criticizer, and hopefully a an equal opportunity payer of complements as well, but only when they're due.

    Stay tuned....

  16. Heh I was hangin with a chayal the other day and he said he wasn't gonna ask for the day off cuz he didn't want the guy (forgot the rank) to see the length of his hair. "I could argue that I'm not cutting it cuz of sefirah" he said, "but he's gonna tell me 'That's a hair of 2 months-not two weeks!' " I am still cracking up. Israeli Defense Forces, you betcha.

  17. I would have found the story hard to believe, except that a number of years ago I had a friend who reported a similar situation.

    At the time he was a Reform Rabbinical student, although was almost unique in that he was 100% committed to halacha.
    At first I was sceptical about his commitment to halacha, but after I got to know him it was clear to me that he in fact was really shomer Mitzvot in every was (Shabbat, Tfilla, Kashrut, relationships with women, etc) - (years later he left the Reform movement and was learning in an Orthodox yeshiva)

    Anyway, he told me that while he was in the army he was not given time to daven. Even though religious soldiers are given time each day to daven, the Rav on the base was not prepared to accept that he was "religious" and he was not given time for Tfilla.
    This person ended up getting up half an our earlier than the other soldiers so that he could daven with Tfilin and still be ready in time to join the other "non-religious" soldiers while the "religious" soldiers were sent to the Beit Knesset.

  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. In retrospect, sounds like it turned out to be a good decision by the rav.

    Your friend turned out ok.

    Oh, and how about putting "rabbinical" in quotes or parentheses next time?

    I wouldn't give it or them that kind of validation.

    BTW, my issue is with those "movements'" leadership, not with any particular individuals.

    For the most part, they know not what they do.

  20. ben, we agree partially at least, I agree that the real problems lie with the charedi leadership. However, because the leadership has created so many laws, so many minhag k'din and geder lifnay hadin, it means that most of the individuals are not living according to what they understand to be right, they are living according to dogmatic indoctornation.

    Now, you want to argue that if a ortho rabbi makes laws, either machmer or mekel, and if they can pilpul their way into that law, like pruzabel, that there is no stirah because they say there is no stirah because they have the right type of smeeeeecha. I respectfully disagree.
    Not that they dont have the right, just that there is no diffrence between their pilpul and my pilpul. There is no diffrence between them deciding which laws are relevent and me deciding.

    Some more examples besides pruzabel and waving chickens and polygamy... ok, well lets look at the fact that a vitner living in the south of france in the middle ages who claims that people travelled through time to plant trees in a dessert, when those trees are native to a desert, this man is considered like an angel and his word is like the words of the torah . I refer to rashi and the story of yakkov and the acacia trees in the negev.

    or we can look at chava's sin of making geder lifnay hadin regarding the apple and how that rashi says that the sin was making geder lifnay hadin...and yet most of ortho judaism is based on geder.

    or we can look at the gemara in nidah, the only place where it even mentions the concept of raping your own wife...the punishment? "your children will be cut off."

    you know who else is on that list? whose children will be cut off? if you impregnate while youre drunk. of course this was all based on a book in yechekil talking about avodah zarah but apparantly the rabbis of the gemara realized that they finally had to make some mention that you shouldn't rape your wife so they pilpulled their way into mentioning the concept.

    Should I go on?

    Im not even arguing the existence of god or anything like that, I could but thats not my point here.
    My point is that you think because ortho rabbis say that they have basis and that they are the ones who are the only ones who can make a pilpul its a closed loop, who came up with lo bashamayiim? ortho rabbis having an argument.

  21. Lets put the anti state anti-work heredim on a ship with the capitalists and arabs and say SIANARA!!!!

    Good riddance to this nonsense form of Judaism from black hat to no keppa that has just created greed an more!


  22. The Way,

    Well, all I think I can do is to recommend someone with whom to speak about such issues, one who looks at halacha away from hashqafah, and takes a much closer look at the [less superstitious and more relevant to Eretz Yisrael] Talmud Yerushalmi than most others.

    {unsubscribing from comments}

  23. the only people who look at halacha without haskafa are the kerrites, and though they have in some countries been allowed to be buried with other types of jews that is about all the interaction or jewishness they are allowed to claim.other than that, its all hashkafa.

    of course from a psychological perspective it would be hard to admit that you still live in a totem based culture, but there it is.

  24. the only people who look at halacha without haskafa are the kerritesThis is simply not true.

  25. but you dont disagree about living in a totem based society... interesting.

  26. Rabbi David Golinkin, of Machon Schecter, and the leading authority of the Israeli Conservative Movement, holds that one should observe the Sefira restrictions.
    No doubt people that enter the army as part of a Conservative Gatin take his rulings seriously.


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