Halachic army

Home Forums Bais Medrash Halachic army

Viewing 50 posts - 1 through 50 (of 86 total)
  • Author
  • #1318392

    Many things about the IDF bother frum Jews. Has someone written anything about what an halachicly ideal Jewish army looks like? i.e., is there any sefer out there that describes a Jewish army al pi halacha? Let’s say in the days of the shoftim or malchei yehuda — what would happen? Of course the mishna itself already makes some references (like regarding netilas yadayim), but what about everything else? Does the Jewish army close up shop every shabbos, or ask non-Jews for help? How are soldiers dressed – would they all wear black hats and white shirts? Do frum men not learn how to fight, but only sit and learn all day, and let only non-frum Jews fight? I’m sure someone has thought about these issues, but I haven’t see any seforim about it…


    It’s Kneged Torah and Halacha for Jews to have a national army prior to the arrival of Moshiach. There’s no right way to do it before then.

    There are many seforim on this. The Maharal discusses it. A more contemporary sefer, one of many, is V’Yoel Moshe.


    It is not that simple to say the army is against Halacha, you may say kivush haaretz is against Halacha maybe but that is a different discussion.


    So Joseph thinks we are still in the 1920s or earlier, when we have the luxury of arguing whether or not to “declare” a state. Of course, before there was a state, nearly all Gedolei Yisroel opposed setting one up, especially one run by atheists, r”l. Unfortunately, their advice was not heeded, and so, today, we are faced with a fait accompli. It’s here, whether we like it or not. And many of us, myself included, most assuredly do not.
    Some people still think we can “undo” the damage that the state has wrought by somehow “turning back the clock.” Something like “System Restore” in Windows. By advocating “going back” to some earlier state of existence that was before the state of Israel was declared.
    So, as I’ve asked in the past, to those who would want to perform a “reset.” To what or to whom would you like to “go back?” The British Mandate? Maybe the Ottoman Empire? Or maybe the Byzantines or perhaps the Roman Empire?
    And aside from a few NK fruitballs, not one gadol anywhere in the world today advocates trying to “turn the clock” back politically to some previous non-Jewish rulers. There are some who profess to be following what they think the Satmar Rov zt”l would hold. He has unfortunately not been among us for nearly 40 years, and we cannot ask him what he would say about today’s situation. We do, however, have living gedolei Torah, NONE of whom advocate disbanding the existing state. We are talking about pikuach nefesh of 7 million or so Yidden living here, surrounded by blood thirsty enemies who would be pleased to have some kind of power vacuum in “occupied Palestine,” so they could move in and slaughter every Jew living here: frum ones included. This pathetic fantasy that some entertain that somehow, the frum Jews could negotiate a “separate peace” with ISIS or the Palestinian Authority, or any of the other gangs of murderers (because 80 years ago, the frum Jews opposed setting up a State) is patently absurd, dangerous, and is NOT advocated by ANY gadol, and rav of stature, not even the Eida Chareidis. Here too, the vituperation of a handful of NK nut jobs is not considered to be a valid halachic opinion by anyone with his head screwed onto his shoulders. Just look at what’s been going on in Syria for the past 6 years or so, what the various different groups are inflicting on each other. We are surrounded by vicious enemies waiting for the opportunity to destroy all of us, including the frum yidden, r”l.
    There is, unfortunately, no political alternative right now to the present state of affairs. We cannot afford the luxury of disbanding the existing structures, and this unfortunately includes the IDF.
    We can, however, and must work to spread more and more Torah among the people, worldwide as well as in Eretz Yisroel. More shiurim, more mosdos, more kiruv. More light of Yiddishkeit to the masses who hunger for ruchnius, for the emes.
    And of course, to ceaselessly beseech Hashem Yisborach to bring about the Geula HaSheleima with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu beme’heira be’yomeinu!

    Avi K

    Joseph, cite your source in the Maharal.. As for V’yoel Moshe, Rav Menachem Kasher refuted it in HaTekufa HaGedola. Are you saying that the Maccabees violated the Torah?

    As for the question on the virtual floor, the Chafetz Chaim wrote a sefer called “Machane Yisrael” for Jewish soldiers in European armies. There is also a book on military ethics called אתיקה צבאית יהודית by Ido Rechnitz and Elazar Goldstein. It can be purchased online.


    AY: No one said anything about turning back the clock. The OP’s question was how to kasher the army. That’s like asking how to kasher a mamzer. Neither can be kashered. And with a mamzer you can also not turn back the clock and avoid his creation. But that doesn’t negate that the answer on how to kasher him is that it is impossible.

    Additionally, regarding your other comment, the Satmar Rebbe zt’l lived over 30 years after the creation of the state. And his magnum opus referenced above was indeed written afterwards in direct response to the State’s creation. So it is certainly most relevant to the discussion of the post-state situation.

    Avi: R. Kasher was exposed for his notorious forgeries in support of Zionism during his lifetime and he had no response to that expose. See earlier threads for the discussion about this.

    The Maharal discusses the Three Oaths in Netzach Yisrael, Ch. 24. He writes that even if the Goyim try to force us to take Eretz Yisroel for ourselves during Golus, we must allow ourselves to be killed rather than violate the Oaths. The Maharal says that these oaths represent absolute prohibitions that one must sacrifice one’s life before violating. In technical terms, these oaths are yehareg ve’al ya’avor. It is better to be martyred than to violate these oaths.


    I know of a sefer that talks about a Jewish army before Moshiach, it’s called the Torah and Nach. To fight Amalek, Moshe didn’t ask everyone to sit and learn. Preparing to conquer Canaan, yehoshua didn’t order Art Scrolls, he formed an army. Whenever Bnei Yisroel was being oppressed, Devorah didn’t fight back by having everyone sit and learn. King David had armies etc

    Avi K

    AY, many gedolim supported it.

    a. I see that you are a baal hotzaat shem ra. In other words, you have an ownership interest in HSR.
    b. The Maharal does not say that. On the contrary, he says that the oath not to make aliya en masse is connected to their oath not to persecute us “too much”. It is pure nonsense to say that they are yehareg v’al yaavor. Only the three cardinal sins are in that category (or any other mitzva that they are trying to force us to violate in order to destroy Judaism) – and that is to what he is referring.
    c. I have already refuted the claims about the three oaths in this venue several times. For your benefit I will repost.
    1. The pesukim cited refer to the kelei hamikdash, not the people.
    2. They are aggadata. Aggadata cannot be understood literally (Rambam, Intro. to Perek Chelek). See also Responsa Chatam Sofer OC 51 at the end – and also note that the Maharshal has separate perushim on Halacha and Aggadata).
    3. They are not brought down in any of the codes.
    4. According to Rav Chaim Vital they were only for 1,000 years (Intro. to Sefer Etz Chaim 8).
    5. According to Rav Meir Simcha the San Remo conference repealed them as the other nations agreed.
    6. According to Rav Soloveichik (Kol Dodi Dofek) Hashem has called.
    7. The other nations violated their oath not to persecute us too much on several occasions (Crusades, Chmielnitzky massacres, pogroms, Petlura massacres, Holocaust). Thus, the deal is off (Sotah 10a with Rashi d”h huchal shevuato shel Avimelech and Shulchan Aruch YD 236,6).


    Joseph, the question is hypothetical, and was not meant to be about zionism. Instead, what does a halachic army look like? Nicha, maybe we shouldn’t have a state and army today, and maybe bimose hamoshiach we won’t need an army (?), but that’s why I asked bimei malchei yehuda and yisroel – what would a halachic army look like? How would it have been conducted? What would they have done on shabbos? Who would have been the soldiers and generals? Would the mo’etzes gedolei torah oversee all military strategy? Would they spend their days teaching the general shor sh’nagach? For many who accept the state just don’t like the army, these questions are relevant even today. For others like you, the questions can be purely hypothetical.


    Joseph, the OP asked how an authentically Jewish army should look and act. Your first reply sounded like there’s no way for it to be kosher al pi Torah. There can be no such thing until Moshiach comes. So, here’s my question: are you therefore advocating to nevertheless leave it as is due to the concern for sakanas nefashos of 7 million Yidden living here? Or are you saying that since it is tarfus, best to disband it altogether. There are no other possibilities (“tdaddim”) here. The former stance is the position of the gedolei Torah world-wide. And I believe Rav Yoilish mi’Satmar zt”l would concur that pikuach nefesh is paramount. Or are you saying that since it is treif, it should be disbanded, and we should all be abandoned to our fate. I suppose you are entitled to maintain such an opinion, but know that there is not even one Talmid Chochom alive today that advocates that position. And if you insist that Rav Yoilish zt”l holds like this latter opinion, well, here too, I suppose you are entitled to your reading and interpretation of the sefer. No one else has to, and in fact, no living Talmid Chochom advocates dismantling the state or the IDF. Should you wish to argue Rav Yoilish zt”l was greater than anyone alive today, I might even agree with you. Yet the darkei pesak halacha (yachid vs. rabbim, etc.) require us to obey today’s living Talmidei Chachomim who pasken in favor of pikuach nefesh.
    And if you are saying that in the zechus of dismantling the abhorrent zionist entity and its treife mixed army, we will be zoiche to the geula ha’shleima. Well, i might give that some credence if even ONE adam gadol also said it. In my nearly 4 decades living here, I’ve never heard anyone who is considered da’as Torah say such a thing. You can sit comfortably in the U.S. and champion your own opinions if you like. Just know that you are doing something very similar to certain groups who consider themselves Orthodox and “frum” who cite the writings of this or that rav or other, in justification of their deviations and doing whatever they want. You can cite VaYoel Moshe in a similar fashion. Not I nor anyone else are required to agree with your interpretations. All of us who are following da’as Torah of the living gedolei Torah are on solid ground.
    Personally, I would agree that, still, it’s an unfortunate state of affairs. We can and should try to work on it, as I already wrote in my previous post.


    AY: but know that there is not even one Talmid Chochom alive today that advocates that position.
    Are you implying that Joseph is not a Talmid Chochom?

    I think an army based on Torah would look almost like any other army.


    Chaver: “I think an army based on Torah would look almost like any other army.”

    Wait, do you think that women should be allowed to join (as they are in almost every other army)? Also, what would happen on shabbos? Would the army function the same as on any other day? Would 18-year old boys join the army? or would they be allowed to sit and learn, leaving army service for non-Jews? or women?


    Women should not be involved in any sort of combat.
    On Shabbos things that are Pikuach Nefesh are done.
    About age, if I remember correctly the Torah says 20.
    There will always be people davening and learning for the success of the army.

    The actual day to day army schedule would probably be like any other army; training, surveillance, etc;.

    Avi K

    1. Women would not join. However, they would do national service and free up men.
    2. On Shabbat they would fight. Did you ever hear about pikuach nefesh?
    3. Maybe they would make it 20-60.
    4. In a milchemet mitzva everyone is drafted. Perhaps the most outstanding talmidim would be chaplains and write sefarim on halachic issues in the army.


    Avi K, regarding your statement that only the three cardinal sins are yehrag vlo yavor:

    The reason one would hold that the oaths are yehrag vlo yavor is because the ideas encompassed by the oaths constitute absolute kefira, and denying Hashem is yehrag vlo yavor.

    Avi K

    5ish, making aliya is kefira? That statement is kefira!


    That was before we were exiled.

    Lilmod Ulelamaid

    M: 1. There would be no women involved in any part of the army or National Service.
    2. The food would be on the highest standard of Kashrus. No one would be served food that has a hashgacha that he doesn’t hold by (unless he doesn’t hold by any hashgachos at all).
    3. All decisions would be made according to Daas Torah.
    4. There would be required Torah learning every day, preferably for at least one full Seder.
    5. Everyone who is learning full-time would be exempt from serving in the army.
    6. Either all of the soldiers would be Chareidi/Chardal or they would all be “modern” or they would all be not-yet-Frum. Alternatively, the army could be made up of all three, but they would be in separate units.
    7. The Commanders (I’m not sure if that’s the correct term) of each unit would be at least as religious as all of the soldiers in their unit.
    8. There would be three minyanim a day, and the schedule would be set up so that each soldier could attend minyan.
    9. No smartphones would be allowed on base (except as absolutely needed, and then they would be filtered).

    Avi K


    2. It is impossible to run an army where everyone insists on a different hashgacha. The Army rabbinate will decide and disobeying will be considered mutiny.

    3. There is no such thing as daat Torah regarding strategy and tactics. Rabbis will only pasken on military ethics – and they will have to have military experience or consult people who do.

    5. Only if they have passed a very difficult exam given by the Army rabbinate. Even then they will be required to learn in army battei midrash, give shiurim to sodliers and publish peer-reviewed articles.

    4. What about when they are in battle or on patrols?

    7. Nonsense. Who decides who is more or less religious. Better a “less religious” officer who is better militarily.

    8. What about when they are in battle or on patrols?


    In an army, functioning normally (or close to it) on Shabbos should be considered Pikuach Nefesh. Can you imagine what it would be if enemies knew that no one would drive out for patrols or whatnot that aren’t immediately life-threatening on Shabbos? There would be something set up to minimize Chillul Shabbos, and Shinui devices should be used, but the idea that “the army can only do things that are really Pikuach Nefesh” is inherently Sakanas Nefashos.


    A point not mentioned so far is that in the “old days”, the winning army got to take the loser’s “stuff” – valuables, livestock, women and children.

    If this were still the prevailing policy, what effect would this have on the attitude toward army service?


    After Friday’s terrorist attack, all this nareshkeit about a “haalachic army” seems both absurd and irrelevant. An army for EY has only ONE purpose…to kill our enemies and keep us from being killed….the army will do WHATEVER it takes to get this done w/o worrying about the hashgacha in the mess hall, taking time out of battle for davening or worrying about “kol isha” if a woman chayal sings to herself in the foxhole….I understand that some of the threads are meant to be intellectually challenging or humorous but somehow, this one seems neither in the context of recent events.


    6. Either all of the soldiers would be Chareidi/Chardal or they would all be “modern” or they would all be not-yet-Frum. Alternatively, the army could be made up of all three, but they would be in separate units.

    Please explain the reasoning behind this idea.


    This thread was not meant to be about the IDF.

    ☕ DaasYochid ☕

    GH, it is your comment which is absurd. Yes, most issurim can be violated for pikuach nefesh. That is indeed the halacha. But to say that therefore an army doesn’t need to follow halacha? That is the biggest narishkeit.

    Lilmod Ulelamaid

    Daas Yachid: “GH, it is your comment which is absurd. Yes, most issurim can be violated for pikuach nefesh. That is indeed the halacha. But to say that therefore an army doesn’t need to follow halacha? That is the biggest narishkeit.”

    +1. It’s also missing the whole point of why we do hishtadlus in the first place as well as an understanding of what Eretz Yisrael is about and the reason for living there in the first place.


    My comment was written from a real world perspective….right now, EY is “all about” protecting the lives of its citizens ….this is NOT an issue of hishtadlus and bitachon….this is about dealing with an Amalek that is coming after us and we must respond with a force and might that doesn’t have the luxury of time outs for debate over the nuances of Halacha. This is pikuach nefesh, not some abstract existential threat analysis.


    GH: The Medina is not all about protecting the lives of its citizens. If that were the case, decisions would be made by Generals and officers who are in the field, not politicians and old generals with political aspirations who sit at fancy desks.

    Avi K

    5ish, you are correct. The Medina is about being the foundation of Hashem’s throne on Earth and a light unto the nations. This, however, unfolds gradually in stages (Yerushalmi Berachot 1,1). Already countries all over the world come to us for advice and seek good relations.


    Lilmod: Based on your standards, I would rather have a “non frum Army” who is worried about being court marshaled than a frum one. Don’t we have the parsha of Isha Yefas Tohar? This gives a blanket waiver to any soldier to capture, rape, and even marry a non jewish woman captured in battle.
    Imagine the outcry from the frum communities if the Israeli army did that in 1967 to the Arab women?

    The point of a Jewish Army is to protect the land of Israel, not the Torah. The rabbanim and sanhedrin are the Jewish army for protecting the Torah. No where in our history was the Jewish army ever required to follow the rabbonim. In addition, throughout our history, a large part of our army were mercenaries starting back from Dovid (maybe even Shaul) and on.

    An Israeli army would have every male eligible drafted in the army. In your downtime, open a gemara and learn. Not even in today’s Israeli army do they stop someone from learning on their downtime.
    Yes, they will need to work on Shabbos.

    When moshiach comes, they can put down their guns and go back to learn, which I doubt as the gemara in Shabbos discussed if the soldiers would be allowed to carry a sword on shabbos once moshiach is here. So it seems that even then we would need an army.

    Avi K

    Anon1m0us, it is not a blanket waiver. See Ramban on the parsha. The whole process was designed to throw cold water on the yetzer hara. BTW, after the Six Day War a French correspondent went to Gaza to collect atrocity stories. When they told him that there had been no rapes he wrote that Israelis are such racists they will not even rape Arab women. There was also an incident during the first Lebanon War where IDF soldiers walked into a grocery, took some groceries and then paid the owner what he said they cost. The IDF is the most moral army in the world. In fact, American generals complained about the high standard the IDF sets.

    Happy Go Lucky!!

    Some of the points here are SO LEFT, they’re almost off the screen.

    “The point of a Jewish army is to protect the land f Israel, not the Torah”… Oh really?!? That’s where you’re coming from… What does Jewish (as in Jewish Army) mean? You actually mean a Gentile army of Jews, fighting to protect people in the land of Israel. No – don’t EVER equate that with a Jewish Army. Never. Ever.

    A real Jewish army (as in Dovid Hamelech’s time) had Torah greats as its generals. Indeed, the opposing “teams” of Saul and David ha the Sanhedrim leaders as it top commanders.

    “Parsha of Isha Yefas Toar, blanket waiver..” Hey, hold it. Don’t run to the army for that alone.. go back (to the Bais Medrash, of course) and learn when exactly it applies… Not at all as simple as it appears at a cursory glance in the Bible. We “Jews” believe in Chazal who explain to us “Bible”.. how to apply.. when, where, how…

    “Never in history was the Jewish army ever required to follow the rabbonim” Shows how little history you know… fyi if an army was Jewish they DID, if they were Goyish they didn’t. A Jew is Jewish, was and will be. You can’t be Jewish without being Jewish. A Jewish army means a Jewish army. Not listening to Rabbonim, or to HaShem for that matter, is hardly “Jewish” – Again maybe Jews fighting in a Goyish, secular army.


    According to the Torah, any draftee who is afraid to fight in the army is exempted from serving.

    Newlyweds are also exempted, as are a number of other applicable halachic exemptions.

    Lilmod Ulelamaid

    GadolHadorah – If I understand correctly, your comments are referring to how the army should be run on the battlefield during a time of war. That is not what was I referring to. That is not the case most of the time, nor is it the case now, so that is not what anyone is talking about when they are describing how the army should be run.

    Obviously, when someone is on the battlefield, they don’t run away because they hear a woman singing to herself in a foxhole (and if there are soldiers singing to themselves in foxholes, the Army definitely needs to be redone! 🙂

    That is not where the kol isha issue came up in the army. The issue was that the Army was FORCING soldiers to attend PERFORMANCES of women singing publicly. That is completely assur, and there is no pikuach nefesh involved.

    The Army clearly does not consider Israel to be in the same kind of emergency situation that you are envisioning if they have the time and energy to stage performances.

    In any event, even in the emergency situation you are envisioning, the ONLY reason why it would be permissible for the soldier in question to not run away when the lady starts singing is because the halacha says not to, and NOT because we ignore halacha in such a situation. Halacha takes precedence over everything else, period! When we are mechalel Shabbos to save lives, it is only because (and when) the halacha says to do so.


    Happy golucky, care to cite the sourcesofyourclaims?


    Joseph: Stop reading Chumash like a Karaite. The Rambam tells us that newlyweds are not exempt from a Milchemes Mitzvah, so you would need that clarification. It’s a Machlokes whether someone who is just afraid to fight is exempt. According to one opinion in the Gemara, it only means someone who has done Aveiros.


    Happy: You obviously did not learn nach in yeshiva! How many king’s can you count that enforced the torah? I can only name 2-3, can you name more? I would like to know!
    Throughout Jewish history, the kings used his army to fight civil wars (that means killing other Jews), kill talmida chocomim, kill Bnai Yisroel who wanted to be Orla Regel!, the armys killed out almost ALL of Beni Dovid on the orders of Queen Athalyah. For your sake, I hope this was NOT a Jewish army, but mercenaries because how could the sanhedrin who were the top commanders have allowed this!!!!???? Please go learn some Nach and you may be shocked that our history was bloody and cruel!

    Dovid Hamelech’s army was comprised of outcasts, see Shmuel 1, perek 22, which clearly states that his initial army, and later the core of his regular army were outcasts. Yes, there may be 1 or 2 famous people, but the majority were not!

    Yes, you can bring the medrish of Ben Sora Imorah, or that it never happened etc…but the HALACHA still remains!

    How would you classify the current IDF? Milchemes Mitzvah or Rehus, or Cheyuv? Based on the Ramban it would be a mitzvah and according to the Mishna in Sotah, there are not exemptions (there is a machlokes) and even WOMEN must go fight or help!

    So again, please show me ONE instance throughout the torah where the King says do A, and then Sanhedrin says do B, the army listened to the Sanhedrin???!!!! All I need is ONE instance! Until then, I will stand by my premise that a Jewish Army was there for the King to order them to enforce the torah (if he felt like it) or kill other jews! They were not there to enforce the torah, but to enforce the Kings word.

    If Dovid or Saul wanted them to enforce the torah, like Yehoshaya, then they did, but that was not their job!


    Sam: The Zionist Army engages in Milchemes Aveiras, so that point is irrelevant to the discussion. Furthermore, I wasn’t giving a comprehensive overview of the relevant laws and exemptions but rather was pointing out examples such as those who are afraid of war or are afraid of their sins are among the Torah exemptions. Some other examples of exemptions are those who planted a vineyard, built a new house, newlywed, etc.


    Rav Avigdor Miller on The IDF: Defending the State and Ruining the Youth

    There has been talk in ארץ ישראל about the frummeh agreeing to join the IDF in separate regiments that will be frum, called the נחל חרדי. What does the Rav think about this?

    Some people are proposing to take frum boys into the army in frum regiments. You should know that it’s a shtus, a complete foolishness. The army is made לכתחילה for the purpose of changing the minds’ of the boys while in the army. The purpose of the army is to make the youth into Israelis. This is something that their leaders have said long ago. And it’s well-known by those who understand things. And we don’t want our children to become Israelis. We want them to remain Jews. And this talk is only a ploy that they’re using now to deceive the frummeh into entering the army.

    The truth it’s that עם ישראל has to keep out of the army. We have to maintain our privilege, as many other countries maintain, that Rabbinical students are פטור from the draft. That they should be exempt from the draft. And let’s continue to fight for that, and not to yield and not to listen to the מסיתים ומדיחים who are talking about frum regiments for the frum boys.

    TAPE # E-253


    Rav Aaron Leib Shteinman opposes Nachal Chareidi

    Avi K

    The Mitzvah to Join the IDF
    by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

    The writer is Head of Yeshivat Har Bracha and a prolific author on Jewish Law, whose works include the series on Jewish law “Pininei Halacha” and a popular weekly column “Revivim” in the Besheva newspaper. His books “The Laws of Prayer” “The Laws of Passover” and “Nation, Land, Army” are presently being translated into English.

    The two mitzvot fulfilled by enlisting in the army are the mitzvah of fighting a war to assist Israel from an attacking enemy, and the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel.

    A mitzvah that cannot be performed by others, overrides Talmud Torah. In our current situation, the majority of yeshiva students must enlist, and only a few select students should be exempt.

    There is no room for tirades against the new law which exempts almost 20% of yeshiva students from army service. Anyone who says there is no mitzvah to serve in the army is not an eminent Torah scholar. The Hareidi community should join the struggle for the sanctity of the IDF camp, so it will suit the absorption of Hareidi soldiers.

    Must Yeshiva Students Enlist in the Army?

    Q: Do yeshiva students have to enlist in the army, or are all Torah students exempt from military service – no matter how many they number?

    A: The mitzvah to enlist in the army is based on two great mitzvot – hatzalat Yisrael (saving Israel), and yishuv ha’aretz (settling the Land of Israel). It should be noted that seventeen mitzvot from the Torah relate to the army, as listed by Rabbi Zevin in his book ‘L’Ohr Ha’Halakha’, where he thoroughly clarifies the mitzvah to enlist in the army. This issue was also expounded upon at length by Tzitz Eliezer, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook in his book ‘L’Nityvot Yisrael’, and other gedolei Torah.

    Saving Lives

    It is well-known that it is a mitzvah for every Jew to save his fellow brother from danger, as the Torah says: “Do not stand still when your neighbor’s life is in danger” (Vayikra 19:16). And our Sages said in the Mishna: “Anyone who saves a single soul from Israel, he is deemed by Scripture as if he had saved a whole world” (Sanhedrin 4:5). We have also learned that in order to save a group of Jews, life is endangered and the Sabbath is desecrated (S.A., O.C. 329:6). How much greater the obligation is to participate in the rescue of the entire nation – namely, the mitzvah of fighting a war.

    Or as Rambam wrote: “What is considered as milchemet mitzvah? … To assist Israel from an enemy which attacks them” (Laws of Kings 5:1). The difference between the mitzvah of fighting a war, as opposed to the standard mitzvah of saving a life, is that the mitzvah of fighting a war requires mesirut nefesh (self-sacrifice), and it overrides an individual’s obligation to protect his own life (Maran HaRav Kook, Mishpat Kohen 143; Responsa, Tzitz Eliezer 13:100).

    Settling the Land of Israel

    It is written in the Torah: “Take possession of the land and settle in it” (Bamidbar 33:53-54), and our Sages said that the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz is equal to all the mitzvot (Sifre, Re’eh, Parsha 53). This mitzvah overrides pikuach nefesh (saving the life) of individuals, seeing as we were commanded to conquer the Land of Israel, and the Torah did not intend us to rely on a miracle. And as there is no war without casualties, it follows that the mitzvah to conquer the Land obligates us to endanger lives for it. (Minchat Chinuch 425 and 604; Mishpat Kohen, pg.327).

    The claim cannot be made that this mitzvah is not in force today, for the halakha follows the opinion of Ramban and the majority of poskim (Jewish law arbiters), that the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz remains in effect at all times.

    There are some poskim who believe that in the opinion of Rambam, ever since the destruction of the Temple there is no mitzvah to conquer the Land of Israel. However, all agree that according to Rambam it is a mitzvah to live Eretz Yisrael, and consequently if after the Jewish nation is already living in the Land enemies come to conquer parts of it, the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz obligates us to fight in order to protect it, because it is forbidden to hand over parts of the Land of Israel to the Gentiles (as explained in the responsa ‘D’var Yehoshua’, section 2, O.C. 58, by Rabbi Yehoshua Ehrenberg, a posek and dayan of Belze Hassidim). This, in addition to the prohibition of abandoning parts of the Land of Israel to Gentiles on account of defense and security reasons (S.A., O.C. 329:6).

    The Conflict between Talmud Torah and the Mitzvah of Army Service

    Although the mitzvah of Talmud Torah is equal to all the mitzvot, the basic rule is that any mitzvah that cannot be performed by others’ overrides Talmud Torah (Mo’ed Katan 9a). The same holds true for enlisting in the army. When there are not enough soldiers for Israel’s security, Torah study is cancelled to serve in the army. In regards to the Torah and our Sages explanation (Sotah 44b) concerning the case of a man who had built a new house and not dedicated it, etc., being exempt from army enlistment, this refers to a milchemet reshut (an optional war). But when it comes to a milchemet mitzvah (an obligatory war), such as a war to rescue Israel from an enemy – “the entire nation must go out to war, even a groom from his chamber, and a bride from her pavilion”. This is also the ruling of Rambam (Laws of Kings 7:4).

    We have also found that the students of Yehoshua bin Nun and King David went out to war without relying on miracles, and were not concerned about the neglect of Torah study (bittul Torah). Regarding the statement in the Talmud (Bava Batra 8a) that Torah scholars do not require protection, it is not referring to a situation of safek pikuach nefesh (a doubtful life-threatening situation), rather, Torah scholars are exempt from protection intended primarily to prevent theft. But when the lives of Jews need to be defended, it is a mitzvah to rescue them from danger – and with regards to the mitzvah of pikuach nefesh – it is a mitzvah for the greatest talmedei chachamin to act first (M.B. 328:34).

    The Importance of Yeshiva Student’s Torah Study

    Nonetheless, it is essential to know that the most important mitzvah is Talmud Torah and no other mitzvah guards and maintains the Jewish nation to the extent of Torah study. Therefore, along with the mitzvah to serve in the army, every Jew must arrange a number of years in his life which he devotes to Torah study, to the best of his ability. This is the meaning of our Sages statement: “The study of the Torah is superior to the saving of life” (Megilah 16b), because saving a life involves the momentary rescue of a human body, whereas Talmud Torah revitalizes the body and soul of the Jewish nation for the long duration.

    When Necessary, Enlist; When Not, Defer

    Practically speaking, when enlistment is necessary for the protection of the nation and the Land, the mitzvah of Talmud Torah does not override it, just as Talmud Torah does not override fulfilling the mitzvot of marriage, tzedakah, and additional mitzvot that cannot be performed by others. This was the instruction of our teacher and mentor, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook ztz”l during the ‘War of Independence’, that yeshiva students must enlist in the army, because the situation at the time required the mobilization of all young men.

    However, when there is no necessity to recruit all young men, then it is the duty of the Jewish nation to exempt students who are worthy of developing into Torah scholars for the sake of Clal Yisrael, so they can grow and become rabbis and educators – provided they do so with respect and amity towards the soldiers protecting our nation and country. For only Torah learning which stems from such a position can make a full contribution to raising the spirit and courage of Clal Yisrael.

    In line with our rabbis teachings, and seeing as the State of Israel is surrounded by enemies, according to Torah instruction the majority of yeshiva students must perform a significant service in the army, similar to the service of Hesder yeshiva students or ‘Hesder Merkaz’ (a special program for Merkaz Harav yeshiva students), so they can integrate into the reserve forces, upon which the IDF bases its primary strength in time of war. However, those few students worthy of becoming important Torah scholars, and whose going out to war is likely to harm their studies, should continue learning in yeshiva for several, unlimited years, for the benefit of Clal Yisrael. Somewhat similar to our Sages statement that one thousand students enter for mikra (Tanach). From there, only one hundred go forth and succeed to be worthy of Mishna (the simple understanding of halakha). Of these one hundred, only ten go forth for Gemara (in-depth study), and of these ten, only one goes forth for hora’ah (teaching) (Vayikra Rabbah 2:1).

    The New Law

    The law in question broadens the opportunity of learning in yeshivas at the expense of army service and the public coffers. This stems from recognition of the importance of Torah study, and the national need to give greater weight to Torah learning in yeshivas following the spiritual and physical crisis the Jewish nation experienced in recent generations. Accordingly, the law grants full exemption from military service to roughly 20% of all yeshiva students. For this, the representatives of the hareidi community should have expressed gratitude to the Members of Knesset and the government, instead of crying needlessly, ranting, raving, and spreading lies, as if nowhere in the world were yeshiva students ever required to enlist in the army.

    Anyone Who Says There is No Mitzvah to Serve in the Army is Not a Gadol

    Q: Is it true you said that a gadol ba’Torah (an eminent Torah scholar) cannot possibly say there is no mitzvah to serve in the I.D.F.?

    A: Indeed, anyone who says that it is not a mitzvah to serve in the I.D.F. cannot be considered a gadol ba’Torah. There might be a debate between gedolei ha’Torah about the number of yeshiva students who need to enlist; there could also be gedolei Torah who believe that in the present situation, which is not an immediate state of pikuach nefesh, it is better for Am Yisrael that all yeshiva students continue learning, including those who do not study diligently, because in the army they are liable to decline spiritually. And although we believe their opinion is mistaken, the debate remains within the framework of the details of the mitzvah and its obligation. But no gadol ba’Torah can possibly claim it is not a mitzvah to serve in the army, just as it is impossible to claim that a person who saves a human’s life, or settle’s the Land of Israel, does not fulfill a mitzvah. If he does make such a claim – this proves he is not gadol ba’Torah. According to my knowledge, the rabbis who are considered gedolei Torah in the Hareidi community, such as Rabbi Eliashiv ztz”l, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztz”l, and Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef ztz”l, agreed that it is a mitzvah to serve in the army, and only opposed compulsory enlistment for yeshiva students at the present time. In contrast to them, members of Satmar who claim there is no mitzvah whatsoever to serve in the army cannot be considered eminent Torah scholars.

    The Difficult Claim against the Hareidi Community

    This is the difficult claim against the Hareidi community: why don’t they explicitly say that those serving in the army fulfill a mitzvah? Why don’t they pray for the welfare of the soldiers? One can argue about the need for yeshiva students to serve in the army, and claim that the mitzvah can be fulfilled by others, but how have they allowed themselves in heat of the debate to erase a mitzvah from the Torah?

    This complaint is directed primarily to all the mashgichim (spiritual supervisors) and various spokesmen, however, the eminent Hareidi rabbis also bear responsibility. For various reasons, most of them avoid speaking about this great mitzvah, thereby giving room to the serious mistake of many of their students, who brazenly dare to claim that serving in the army is not a mitzvah.

    Mobilization for Guarding the Sanctity of the Army Camp

    If the representatives of the Hareidi community would invest even a tenth of the effort they devoted in the fight against enlistment to the struggle of preparing the army for the absorption of members of their own community, they would have been much more beneficial. Because then, the fear of the young men declining spiritually in the army would wane, and all those yeshiva students who do not study diligently could enlist in the army without fear; subsequently, most of the complaints against the Hareidi community would disappear.

    At the same time, they would assist all those frustrated young men who are unable to find their place, and thus strengthen the IDF in terms of security and spirituality. Consequently, they would have a positive effect on the state of tzniyut (modesty) of all soldiers, and as a result on the entire country – not unlike the religious soldiers – the yeshiva students – that by means of their good example have already influenced the entire army today – until gradually the IDF will become much more fitting for religious individuals. And as the number of serious, observant soldiers increases, so will we merit greater sanctity of our military camp, and as a result, be privileged to see the Final Redemption, speedily in our days.

    This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.


    Rabbi Melamed: “Although the mitzvah of Talmud Torah is equal to all the mitzvot, the basic rule is that any mitzvah that cannot be performed by others’ overrides Talmud Torah (Mo’ed Katan 9a). The same holds true for enlisting in the army. When there are not enough soldiers for Israel’s security, Torah study is cancelled to serve in the army.”

    So even according to this eminent Zionist rabbi, if the army has enough soldiers without resorting to drafting those engaged in the mitzvah of Talmud Torah, those who are studying Torah must be exempted from army service to continue their immersion in Talmud Torah.

    And it is beyond dispute that the Israeli army has *too many* draftees and certainly has far more than enough soldiers even if the Bnei Yeshiva are exempted.


    Anon1m0us, ONE example? Okay. Here we go Shaun ordered the army to execute the inhabitants of Nov, the city of Cohanim, but the two main generals (Avnet and somebody else) refused to comply saying it was an average. So the army didn’t do it. Diego did it personally.


    Avi K, you and some others persist in trying to persuade the Chareidi community, by somehow thinking you can turn to the community without the Rabbonim “interfering.” But, I’ll say it again. You are wasting your time. Just like you are wasting your time citing a lengthy essay by someone (Rabbi Melamed) who has zero standing in the Chareidi community. I’m not trying to upset or antagonize you. I’m certain that he’s a fine person, although I wish I could figure out why he likes to dress up in clerical garb, that is reminiscent of the galus. But, at the end of the day, his opinion in Torah matters does not carry any weight in the larger Chareidi community. The Chareidim (at least the ones that I know) are not losing sleep over the fact that the national religious don’t do as we do. We are not going out of our way to “proselytize” anyone. Yes, it’s painful to us and unfortunate that the dati leumi don’t obey da’as Torah. But, it’s not an obsession among the Chareidim to persuade them to accept it. We understand that most will not, indeed cannot accept the da’as Torah of the Sages. In fact, until a few years ago, the dati leumi refused to acknowledge the very concept of “Gedolei Torah” and “da’as Torah” altogether. Used to be that a politician’s or a MK’s opinion about Torah and halacha was considered equivalent (or even better) than that of a rabbi, even a gadol beTorah. The dati leumi rabbis back then realized that they had to accept this state of affairs, and, as a rule, refrained from issuing public statements on matters of public policy. Just as a reminder, didn’t Rav Soloveichik from Boston write in his book that there’s no such thing as “da’as Torah?” Today, the situation has changed somewhat. The dati leumi community learns much more than in the past, and this has most likely has had a positive influence. A new generation is growing up realizing that rabbinical opinion is more important that was previously thought or admitted. So, yes, many in the dati leumi community consult and follow rabbinical opinion more than their parents’ generation did.
    But, to try to persuade me and the rest of the Chareidi tzibbur to abandon the Batei Medrash and join the army – based on an essay written by someone whom I and the rest of the Chareidi tzibbur do not consider to be a “bar-plugta” of the Gedolei haTorah? It’s as pointless as it is absurd. You need to meet with and (try to) persuade the Gedelei Torah to change their minds. I imagine that there is not much chance of that happening, but that is the ONLY way to make such a seismic change among the Chareidim: that only if the Gedolim change their opinions about learning vs. army service. But, given the current situation, the same way I understand that you are not going to forsake Rav Melamed and start following Rav Chaim Kanievsky and the other Gedolei Torah (although I wish you would!). Similarly, you ought to understand and accept that the Chareidi tzibbur is not going to abandon those whom it understands to be the Gedolei Hador, and whose opinions to be da’as Torah. Especially by citing the words of someone who has no rabbinical standing in the Chareidi world. The only possibility would be discussing it with the Gedolim. And as you probably realize, the chances of getting them to change their minds on this is probably nil. So, accept the situation. The same way the Chareidim accept the unfortunate situation that so many people disobey the opinion of the Gedolei Torah.


    I am sorry, but it was Shaul who ordered it. Avner refused because it was an aveirah.Doeg did it.


    MDD1: Actually, Avner was punished for his passiveness in allowing them to be killed. Please see Sanhedrin 20.
    Even though there were conscious objectors, the army DID kill out the city on the command of a mercenary, Doeg. So my premise stands. 1) The Jewish army did contain mercenaries. 2) The King controlled the army, not the Sanhedrin. 3) the army did what the king commanded, not to upkeep the Torah. If The king decides to enforce the Torah, the army would comply as we see by Yehoshya. The Army was also used to kill innocent people like Saul, Menashe, Yannai, Alexander, and the rest of the dozens of Jewish Kings that used to army to kill innocent people.


    So what? Just because we had bad Kings who misused the army and did other bad things doesn’t make them an example of what’s right to do.


    There is a story I heard in Rav Reismans shiur on more then one occasion.
    It involves bachrum who came to complain to Rav Baruch ber about a skit made by haskalah students. Long story short, Its a jewish army and the questions begin “whoever just built a house leave” etc. In the end, only the chafetz chaim and rav chaim ozer are left. As the goyim approach the chafetz cahim says “you are the gadol hador you should be mechabid with the first shot” Rav Ozer responds “chas v’shalom, you are a kohen” and the curtain comes down as the goyim get really close.
    rav Baruch responded, “whats to complain, that is how it will be!!”
    thats a halachic army, one that runs on miracles and not koach vatzum yadi


    Joseph & Mentsch: My point is not to point out our questionable history, but the concept of a “Jewish Army” following Halacha is a foreign concept. A Jewish Army follows the halacha, not because a King tell them to follow the halacha or because of the Sanhedrin. They follow it because each individual in that army follows the halacha. As stated, the Army follows the king, not Sanhedrin. If a soldier decides to follow Sanhedrin and not the king, he is killed for Mored B’Malchus.

    Menthsch- Yes, hashem performs miracles but ein somchin al haness. After all is said and done, there are halachos that require people to serve in the army; even women! (see Sotah Perek 8) which I am sure the Sanhedrin would also force. So while it is a nice story, the reality is that whoever is required to fight must fight, and as Rashi explains they had officers standing in the back lines with axes in their hand to chop off the legs of people who wanted to run away.

    So to summarize, a Jewish Army Al Pi Halacha is an army that each individual upholds the halacha. Al Pi Halacha, this army can contain Men and Women. This Army can fight on Shabbos and when moshiach comes, will also ask Sanhedrin regarding halachic issues and since the king will be Moshiach, there will be no issues. Until then, the army follows the Prime Minister and asks all halachic questions to the chief rabbi.


    Anon…, Rambam says explicitly that an order of a Jewish King which goes against Halochah is to be disregarded. Plus, he also says that a discretionary war can be waged only with the permission of Sanhedrin.


    Do you really believe the rishonim would be happy with the mixing of men and women in the army, as it is practiced today, even among “halachic” jews ?

Viewing 50 posts - 1 through 50 (of 86 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.