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Nov 15, 2012

Staying in the South or Leaving.. either way

With the military operation going on in and near Gaza, affecting the entire southern part of the country, the residents of the areas are suffering terribly. Lack of sleep, trauma, inability to go to work, lack of routine and schedule, and that is besides for the fear and witnessing of rocket strikes, and the injuries and deaths. It is difficult to fathom how difficult their situation really is.

While we might like to see people staying strong and fighting back, even if just by remaining home and not evacuating the area, how can one ask that of them? The residents of the south havent had a good nights sleep in a very long time. They are on the edge and are going through a very tense situation. The people of Israel, all over the country, are opening up their homes and communities to host, whether it be for a couple of days, a Shabbos, or even longer periods of time, residents from the south who need to get away for a bit and calm down and get some rest, and quiet.

We like to see, as much as is possible, people staying put. It is a certain sign of strength that they aren't abandoning the area. Especially the yeshivas who have students learning Torah, doing their part for the success of the operation and for the safety of the soldiers and residents of the area. There have been many halachic discussions and debates whether from a halachic perspective one should leave, go somewhere quiet and relatively safe to rest or to learn better, or if one should stay put, even if it means they will be running to bomb shelters, being at risk, unable to learn uninterrupted. Both halachic opinions are valid and understandable, though, admittedly, many prefer to see the final psak be to stay put - if Torah really protects, stay put and learn there to protect the area.

I don't know that it says anywhere that one must be in the war zone learning for his learning to protect the people in the war zone. Doesn't the  learning of Torah in Jerusalem, Beitar, Tel Aviv, Bnei Braq, Ranaana, Petach Tikva, Haifa, Tiberias and many other places equally protect the southern sector of Israel, and the whole of Israel, as much as learning in Ashdod, Ashqelon, Sderot, Beer Sheva, Netivot and Ofakim? Or does the learning in the south have more weight in the protection of the area and of Israel because they are in the "red zone"? I don't know, though I have never seen written that being in the "red zone" offers more protection. Yes, it perhaps raises morale. And, perhaps it offers the opportunity for more valued learning as to stay and learn while under fire is proof in the pudding of more mesirus nefesh, more dedication, for the Torah learning, and therefore perhaps does offer better protection, as the quality goes up by the increased dedication, even if it is not uninterrupted due to the sirens and danger.

It is a difficult decision, and a difficult situation to be thrown into.

As much as I would want to praise those who stay, for reasons of increased morale and dedication, I would not want to criticize those who choose to leave. The charedi rabbonim have called for increased learning, for establishing round-the-clock-shifts, and taking care to learn in stretches of uninterrupted time, so the yeshiva boys will be doing their part, but they have also said the boys should leave the south and go home or to quiet areas. With so many other people leaving the south for some quiet and safety, it is not unreasonable that parents will want their kids out of harms way, nor that the yeshivas will want their kids out of harms way, nor that for the quality of learning they might go to a quieter area.

There is tremendous chessed in this time of need, with people opening their homes, and communities offering refuge to those who need or want it. It is a time for remaining positive and understanding of those suffering the most.

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  1. When it comes down to it, even Charedim don't really believe that learning Torah protects against attacks.

  2. The Charedi world justifies the draft exemption for yeshiva students based on the following:

    1. Torah learning protects everyone
    2. The boys are engaged in מלחמתה של תורה
    3. Talmidei Chachamim don't need protection

    Based on these it would seem that the Yeshivas should stay where they are. If the boys who are learning are engaged in war just like the soldiers why should they abandon their posts? In addition if Torah learning protects, let them stay where they are and be protected by their Torah.

  3. as long as they are learning, they are not abandoning their posts. why does it matter where they are when they learn? doesnt their learning in, say bnei braq, protect as much as their learning if they were in Ashdod? this does not take into account issues of morale or other reasons to stay. just on the issue of learning.

    1. there is an issue of moral. if people, those who can, "leave their posts", it affects everyone else. i would never tell a husband and wife with 5 kids that they should stay in place. but it would be entirely fitting if the single guys stay there, learn, mix with the community, be there for them, help out when things get bad.

      i remember the mass exodus from the north during lebanon 2. it was very very bad for the whole country. the hesder yeshiva in quiryat shemona, rav drori's, stayed in place.

  4. BTW, did you notice that there was a missile in Rishon? That is further from Gaza than Bet Shemesh.


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