Jul 10, 2012

Approaching Shaas Shmad in Israel and the USA

What is going to come of the Plesner Committee's recommendations and the political process of drafting the haredi community remains to be seen, but it looks like hard times all around are being expected.

The haredi community leadership has long ago declared the idea of drafting the haredi yeshiva boys at age 18, or even at age 23, to be a sha'as shmad. That is considered as bad as it gets. Think of the times of the Romans not allowing Torah study and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai needing to hide out in a cave. Think about the Greeks outlawing Torah study and the people studying in caves and the kids playing dreidel to deflect the supervisors. The declaration of this being shaas shmad turns this into an equivalent of some of the darkest times in Jewish history.

It is not for me to argue on whether this will be a shaas shmad or not - perhaps diminishing the amount of torah learning by even a tiny bit can be considered shaas shmad. However, the difference here is that nobody is shutting down yeshivot, nobody is outlawing torah study. All they are doing (not to minimize the effect or the seriousness of the issue) is saying young men from age x (yet to be determined) will have to do army or civil service. torah learning will still be allowed. yeshivot will continue to function with boys both post and pre army/civil service, along with boys who will inevitably be disqualified and exempted for health or other reasons. Not to minimize the seriousness of diminishing the amount of Torah study, but it is not exactly the same situation as the historical shaas shmad.

Regarding shaas shmad, Rav Yitzchak Sheiner, rosh yeshiva of Kaminetz, spoke to his students, as reported on Ladaat, about the potentially serious situation and shaas shmad the yeshivot are facing. Rav Sheiner called on the boys to get very serious, to not waste any time, study during seder and at night go to bed right after learning and not hang around at all. And of course to daven, at least in the regular prayers if not adding new ones, that the decree should be annulled.

And on that note, things might be more serious for the Jewish community, especially the frum community, than just shaas shmad in Israel. The New York Times is running an op-ed discussing the call of a general in the US Army to renew the draft. If the country must go to war, the idea is behind General Stanley A. McChrystal's proposal, then everybody must feel how serious such a decision is. Only if there is a complete draft, where everybody feels it, will people be able to decide properly whether the USA should be going to war or not.

I don't know how serious the movement is to renew the draft in the USA - maybe it is just a lone voice. Or maybe shaas shmad is coming to the USA as well....

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21 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. for the rabbis this is a serious situation. The main reason for the yeshivas is the draft (i.e. the reason to be in yeshiva for most people is to avoid the draft) . Once yeshiva is no longer an excuse that means the yeshivot will empty. Since all the major source of parnash for roshei yeshivot is the government stipend and what they skim off of the money that is supposed to be given to the students-this means that they will lose their parnash also. and a rosh yeshiva with no knowledge of Torah and no ability to make money is a sad situation. Most charedim will to go to America and any other place they can manage to convince other Jews to take them in. But as for me I discovered long ago that the yeshivas are private clubs that sit and chat all day. And I also noticed that Americans that come to Israel thinking to join a yeshiva unless they have rich American parents are always rejected. They would not lift their small fingers for down-on-their luck American Jews.

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  3. Adam, this is an interesting idea that maybe there will be a mass exodus of avreichim to the USA so that they continue learning.

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    1. There will be no mass exodus to the USA or anywhere else. For the very simple reason that there is no money to support them. Period. The yeshivot in the USA can barely support themselves today, even *with* parents kicking in some tuition money each year, there is no way they can absorb a bunch of freeloaders.

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    2. and for the very simple reason that they would have to get a visa from the US or anywhere else and guess what? the US and anywhere else doesn't just give these away to anyone.

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  4. Rafi, are you serious when you write "not to minimize the seriousness of diminishing the amount of Torah study" and "perhaps diminishing the amount of torah learning by even a tiny bit can be considered shaas shmad"? This rhetoric about shmad is rubbish and they know it. It is hyperbole. They are trying to work up the masses.

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  5. Rafi,
    It is not only the lessening of Torah learning. The army is not a haredi friendly place, and that is an understatement. The phenomenon of young men entering the army with kippot on the heads and leaving the army without them is widespread and well known. This is another element in the perceived shmad. I refer your readers to what I wrote here on the subject.

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    1. Cosmic. Cr*p. What about young or old people at any other stage of their life leaving religious observance? And what about people making the change in the other direction? And in any case, on what basis do you say that this desertion of religion in the army is "widespread and well known"? Prove it. This is not a valid argument for avoiding army service that is compulsory for everyone else.

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    2. Somehow Hesder has succeeded and done very well. The Hesder guys have their own units and give each other chizuk as well as teh Yeshiva supporting them. The Charedi world could have done something similar but they wanted it all. Unfortunately, תפשת מרובה לא תפשת.

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  6. I am not saying that it is a valid argument. I am saying that this is how things are perceived in haredi circles.

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  7. It's really horrifying that less than a century after a true shmad the rhetoric is being used for something not even remotely comparable.

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    1. Tesyaa - and it's a chidush that Chareidim are abusing terms associated with true Shmad? How many protests have you been at where they shout "Nazi" at the Israeli police? Not that I disagree with your point at all - just pointing out that this is completely typical overblown rhetoric in Chareidi society.

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    2. I completely agree. The rhetoric in this case is reprehensible.

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    3. They used very similar rheteric a few years ago, when the government cut the inflated child subsidies and was accused of starving the poor haredi children. It was reprehensible then, and its even more extreme and reprehensible now.

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  8. R' Yitchak Sheiner says (
    http://www.theyeshivaworld.com... ) that the bochurim should prepare to go to prison. After thinking about it for a while, this makes perfect sense:
    1) In essence, prison isn't so different than yeshiva.
    2) They can sit and learn all day.
    3) Prisons are segregated, so there is no chance they will come into contact with women.
    4) I think if a prisoner requests mehadrim food, the prison is required to provide it.

    Really, it's a perfect solution!

    :-)

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  9. Cosmic X, that is why I keep saying to shift the focus away from the army per se. National service is also an option. That would allow haredim to work with the govt to set up a proper environment - time for minyuan, kosher food, separate men and women and even home in time for night seder. The army may not be a haredi friendly place, but it doesn't have to be the army.

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  10. Wanna,

    why is the national service an acceptable compromise? Why do non charedii youths need to give up years of their life, 24/7 and real military service, while a select group of youths get to do part time, safe, volunteer style work? Are my kids less valuable that they should be bullet blockers while other people's children are at no risk and have a day camp style program?

    Why are your beliefs more valuable then my children's lives? Why are your beliefs more valuable than my beliefs?

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  11. There was a discussion on this blog a few days ago about why people hate haredim. Well, just listen to the rheteric of their politicians. How do you think people feel when they send their kids to the army, in many cases have served in the army themselves and seen friends and relatives die in combat, and here are these people raising comparisons to the Nazis and the Romans because they are now, after over 60 years, being asked to do the same thing? With a sizable exemption proposed, a shorter period of service, the ability to defer army service for several years, and lighter penalties for draft evasion. Even if one has sympathy for the haredi position on the importance of Torah study and the spiritual danger of the army, I think the rheteric one hears out of the haredi camp presents the rest of us with a difficult challenge not to hate them, and to remember that this is the leadership speaking, not the haredi public.

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  12. "why is the national service an acceptable compromise? Why do non charedii youths need to give up years of their life, 24/7 and real military service, while a select group of youths get to do part time, safe, volunteer style work?"

    Just the other day, you were trying to explain that being in the army even if not in combat is the same as someone who has been in the army with combat experience...

    Make up your mind.

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  13. anon

    a non combat soldier is nothing like national service.

    Do you need me to lay out the differences for you or are you making a weak point just to obfuscate the issue?

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  14. Anon,

    since I don't have the patience to deal with people who posit blatantly fasle arguments, here is an article which touches on many of the differences.

    http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/it-s-time-to-really-stop-being-suckers.premium-1.450016

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