Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Unfairly Taking Credit

It should be beyond debate that the nation of Israel, both the people and the state, exist and survive through the help of God.  This help is earned through three methods: prayers and Torah study, His infinite patience and our own efforts.
Of those three things we often find that the first two get all the attention, the last one not so much.  Perhaps this is because of the emphasis nowadays on the spiritual and mystical aspects of Judaism.  People are interested in hearing about how things work out or don't due to presumed merits and sins, not so much about the efforts that may or not have been made in the endeavour.
This seems to come to the fore most of all when the topic of service in the Israeli army comes up along with the lack of participation of much of the Chareidi community in that service.  The line from the Chareidi PR flacks is well known: their Torah study is the true reason the State endures and the efforts of the army, if they mean anything at all, are only successful because of that study.  Therefore, as opposed to the general perception that the Chareidim should be grateful to the army for protecting it, in truth it is the army and secular society that should be grateful to the Chareidim for their real protection.
Unfortunately there are too many holes to poke in this argument to ever take it seriously.  Rav Natan Slifkin, for example, has detailed the actual absence of any evidence for this argument in the halachic literature on many occasions.  A few real world examples added on will suffice.
Consider that when Israel actually enters a state of distress, such as when rockets start flying out of 'Aza or over the northern border from Lebanon, it is the Chareidi population that scrambles to safety first.  One would think that they would instead crowd at the border with their Talmuds and intensify their learning but apparently Torah study only protects when the student is far away from the battle and safe from harm.  Then there is the more blunt example.  Chareidim are often fond of pointing out that many of their forbears were slaughtered in the Holocaust, may Hashem avenge their blood.  The obvious retort is: why didn't their Torah study protect them?  If the answer is "Well you can't change God's decree" then why is that answer not used when the army is successful in protecting Israel?  Why it is suddenly not God's decree but their Torah study that is responsible?
Rav Avi Shafran, with his usual obliviousness, continues to push the discredited paradigm over at Cross Currents.  He once again connects two things which are not necessarily linked and hopes you'll just assume they are.  The two elements are:
a) Israel's fate is in the hands of God and right now He's in a favourable mood
b) Chareidi Torah learning is what is keeping that favourable mood going
The problem is that the linkage isn't necessarily there.  Does Rav Shafran have any evidence that it's Chareidi Torah learning that is causing Israel's survival?  Perhaps God prefers the learning done in Dati Leumi institutions since those combine a practical (instead of theoretical) love of the Land of Israel with Torah instruction?  Perhaps He's impressed with 18 year olds who leave their homes to stand on the borders and protect the lives of millions of Jews despite their fears and apprehensions?  Perhaps it's the various acts of kindess that take place in the country every day in all corners of society?  Perhaps it's because the army, despite the endless provocations of its enemies, maintains a moral standard unmatched by any other serious army in the world?  Perhaps it's a little bit of all of those things?
Now the Chareidim are often accused of not sharing "the burden" with society and they respond with all sincerity that since Torah study is an underlying duty of any Jewish society it is they who shoulder the real burden.  Leaving alone that all their arguments end with "And we're really doing everything" one can point out that their main point is correct.  A Jewish society must not only be filled with kindness and morality but it must also value Torah study above almost anything else.  Perhaps it would behove secular society to introduce a small amount of Torah study into its educational system to ensure all Israeli Jews graduate from high school with a functional knowledge of what Torah is, what its greatest books contain and some understanding of those contents.
But if the Chareidim really see themselves as the moral peak of society then it behoves them to make the first move and venture into general society where they can better serve as examples of piety combined with practicality.
Just a thought.

1 comment:

RAM said...

The day all factions openly recognize other factions' positive contributions, even if they still object to much of what the others think and do, will be a milestone on our way to the geulah. The key word is "openly."