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Jan 11, 2009

Whom does the Torah protect?

There has been considerable online discussion about the phenomenon of various haredi yeshivas in the southern part of Israel, those within the direct war zone, deciding they could not stay put and moving to learn in alternate locations around the country.

The sentiment is understandable, and I generally feel the same way. The yeshivas claim that there learning is what protects the country, equally or more so than the army does. If so, they should specifically stay put during the war and provide their protection to the area. They should not be leaving because of danger. Or is such a claim only lip service.

I can accept certain exceptions. Students from abroad whose parents are nervous. Students with anxiety or health issues. Individuals with issues could be allowed to leave, but the whole yeshiva?

I was here learning in yeshiva during the first Gulf War. Many yeshiva boys from the USA and England left Israel, even well before the war, because their parents, or they, were afraid. I did not agree with it, but I could understand it. I believed that the right place to be was in Israel. Thankfully my parents supported that decision, and were not nervous. they even decided to come to Israel on a solidarity mission with the UJA for a visit the week before the war, and stayed an extra week to be here for the first week of the war itself.

If you really believe in what you are doing, you have to act like it as well, not just say it.

So, the yeshivas have mostly packed up and left, moving to other cities temporarily where they could concentrate and study more intensely.

[at least] One yeshiva in the zone did not. Yeshivas Tifrach stayed in Moshav Tifrach.

Yeshivas Tifrach is known as the cream of the crop of Israeli yeshivas. I don't mean cream of the crop in brain power (though that might be true as well - I don't know). I mean in the sense that they really believe in what they are doing. They really, truly believe Torah is the only option. They are hard-core in Torah.

There was even an incident last week that a Color Red siren went off in the area including Tifrach announcing an incoming rocket attack. Nobody in the yeshiva budged from their seats to look for shelter. They continued learning. They truly believe what they say, that learning Torah protects Israel, and they therefore act on that belief.

The yeshivas that moved did not just pack up and leave. They realized the issues involved and asked the gedolim. the gedolim gave them permission, or perhaps instructions (depends what was exactly said), to find alternate locations. Tifrach was told they could stay put.

So, what is the difference between Tifrach and the rest of the yeshivas? Some cynics will say that most of the yeshivas don't really believe, and just pay lip service to the mantra.

But that is not the case. The answer was printed this week in the Haredi newspaper "Ha'Shavua".

Initially, the Rosh Yeshiva of Tifrach went to Rav Chaim Kanievsky to ask whether or not they should leave. Rav Kanievsky said to stay put, as the Torah will protect. A few days later, 2 rockets fell in the area of Tifrach. The RY asked again what to do. Rav Knaievsky sent him to Rav Elyashiv.
Rav Elyashiv told Tifrach that there is a difference between them and the yeshivas in Ashdod. The yeshivas in Ashdod are in a city that is a strategic location for Hamas to target. Therefore to rely on the Torah protecting, when sitting in a strategic location being directly targeted, means one would be relying on an open miracle. Since we do not pray and ask for open miracles, those yeshivas located in Ashdod should leave.

But because Tifrach itself is only "in the war zone" but itself is not a strategic location to be targeted, so they could stay put. The Torah will protect them, because to do so is not relying on an open miracle, as they are not being directly targeted.

The discussion is very nice, as it explains why Tifrach is not in danger, but the yeshivas in Ashdod are. However, I always thought the mantra of "The Torah protects" is one of a reality, not a request for a[n open] miracle. Also, this discussion implies that the Torah only protects those who are busy learning it, while it is used in general to say that the Torah learned by the few protect the whole country. What happened to that?


  1. B"H

    There has been some reports about Netivoth, and the lessening crowds at grave sites.

    The Babba Salli's yartzeit is 4 Shevat. I wonder if there will be any activities this year. It's usually a huge event.

    I wonder if police will allow anything.

    Will people suggest that they will "be protected?"

    Do you ever go yourself?

    There's always a contingent from Tapua'h.

  2. I never went.
    I know some will say they will be protected. But going somewhere in teh zone is different than staying if you are there already.
    Also, going for a yahrtzeit is different than learning in yeshiva.

  3. Certainly, you are right on all points.

    Just thinking out loud....

  4. Yeshivat Sderot hasn't moved.


  5. Mordechai - I know they have not. The issue was solely with the haredi yeshivot. The ones who claim to have no need to fear anything because of their torah learning, are the ones who are afraid... except in Tifrach.

  6. there is a difference between time of war and regular life, isnt there? Durign the 6 day war, though i was not alive, i heard that there were plenty of chareidim that faught in the war to protect the yidden.

    When someone has a heart attack, no one will say, quick, someone say a chiddush to save the guy. Clearly there is a time to learn and a time to be active in pikuach nefesh, and not to rely on learning.

    So i think the pshat is that the learning protects them from regular dangers. Missiles falling from overhead is outside of the box of normal dangers. Hence, one needs to protect himself extra. Tifach being the exception.

    Just out of curiosity, on the blogsphere where everyone "went to town" of the Roshei Yeshiva of those yeshivos that left, and on the whole chareidi community of merely paying lip service - did anyone come up with this svara, or was it merely all bashing the chareidim with out any realization that shailos were asked to gedolei haposkim? If the former, I am curious as to who thought of it, and who gave chareidim the benefit of the doubt. And if the latter, I am curious as to why chareidim dont deserve the benefit of the doubt, as we see here they certainly deserve, having asked a shaila and following to a T.

  7. I did not say anything abou tit until i saw this psak differentiating between tifrach and the rest, and to a certain extent it even makes sense to me.

    but I still have a problem with abandoning a city that is in danger (again, not including individuals with issues), whether it is torah related or not, but especially if it is torah related.

    the truth is I was going to stop the post after explaining the difference beween tifrach and ashdod, but then I thought of the rest of it as I was writing it and could not stop myself....

  8. Rafi,
    2 points
    1. When I lived in Haifa during the (2nd) Lebanon war, the bachurim in Nachalas Haleviim (the Haredi Yeshiva there) all stayed in the dorms and learned during the war (even though a Ketushya is scarier than a Grad). During the sirens, they went down a floor (Beis Midrash was on top floor).
    2. I find this pretty sickening. If the Torah doesn't even protect them while they are learning (and we have Mekorot that someone cannot be injured while learning), then their argument that they don't serve in the army since their learning protects others is clearly bunk. Kal VeChomer: if it doesn't protect even themselves, so certainly not others!


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