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9 Teves 5774 - December 12, 2013 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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The Tradition of our Rabbonim in How to Wage War

by A Marbitz Torah

Regarding the approach as to the form of struggle regarding the decree of army draft of yeshiva students, we see that they are trying to drag our bnei yeshiva and avreichim into public demonstrations which can lead to violence. It is known that our Torah leaders are opposed to street demonstrations at this present time. In their opinion, the thrust of our battle at this point, before a definite political step has been taken, is to use non-aggressive means of effort, political means of persuasion, on the one hand, and reinforcement in Torah study by all bnei Torah and their adherents, alongside increased prayer before Hashem that He rescue us from this terrible decree. The method of public demonstration is reserved only for times of emergency — as our rabbis have instructed us.

In order to thoroughly understand this issue, one is advised to study the few words spoken by HaRav Shteinman in the opening address of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah which met in his home in Kislev last year ( available here> ), where he outlined the fundamental strategy in this current battle, as has been exercised by our rabbonim. In his words:

"Chazal say that four things require chizuk, one of which is Torah study, which needs reinforcement from within and from the outside. We are now dealing with the threat from the outside. In our days it is known that from time to time there are harsh decrees, which should not succeed, chas vesholom.

"Boruch Hashem, the numbers of Torah scholars have increased, and our yeshivos are filled with young students who want to learn Torah, including some whose parents would not have sent them to yeshiva in the past."

It is important to note that the struggle of the Torah world applies not only to the yeshiva students who come from strong Torah homes, but also to those who come from different backgrounds.

HaRav Shteinman said further: "...on the other hand there are difficulties and this is in matters of principle over which we must fight the government. We certainly do not refer to improper means but just to entreat and to stand firmly on our principles and to pray for Heavenly mercy. We must do our best not to provoke them in the same manner that we are forbidden to provoke the nations of the world in any way. We must also not provoke people who do not have the proper hashkofoh."

It is no secret that ever since the establishment of the State, there have been two basic schools of thought, diametrically opposed. One of them is embraced by the majority of our gedolim of past generations, beginning with the Chazon Ish. They all maintained that since the establishment of the State, we consider ourselves as living still in golus [even] under this government and that we must relate to this government exactly as earlier generations related to the Polish or Russian government.

HaRav Dov Povarsky told that he was present by HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky in Vilna when they came to have him sign a public letter in the name of the then gedolim, stating that they were absolutely dissociating themselves from the Zionists and their acts. This was when they declared a commercial boycott of Germany, thus causing a dangerous incitement of the Nazi fiend who already ruled over that country. The hope of the letter was that it would mitigate the damages which the Zionists had already caused by their deeds. HaRav Chaim Ozer turned to the activists and said, "What is your argument? That we are inciting the nations? True. This is provocation, indeed, but the Zionists are also a `nation' and we must not provoke them either!"

If that position was valid in those times when the Zionists did not have their state, how much more so is it true even sevenfold when we oppose the decrees of the State of Israel.

We Do Not Have an Ideological Dispute with Neturei Karta

In apposition to this approach is the position of Neturei Karta and the Eida Chareidis, which is based on the position of the Satmar Rebbe, HaRav Yoel Teitelbaum, that does not recognize the rule of the Zionists and which forbade any cooperation with the government, and did go in for demonstrations as a form of battle against the decrees which cropped up anew almost daily.

HaRav Shach used to say that we do not have any ideological dispute with Neturei Karta. In principle, we are also Neturei Karta, the question is only regarding the practice or method of fighting. In other words, we also maintain that the government is a regime of evil and we also know that the sole goal of all the Zionists from the Left and the Right is to uproot religion. The question is how we must proceed, how we are to deal with those uprooters of the faith and of the evil government: either by the approach of chappen (as in the famous parable of the Chofetz Chaim and the overturned basket of apples, where the advice is to chap as many apples as one still can) or of shreien gevaldt, screaming in pain and protest.

According to the Chofetz Chaim's idea, HaRav Shach ordered the chareidim representatives to join the Coalition and accept government posts, against the protest from various corners of our camp, itself, including gedolei Torah, among them, talmidim of the Rav of Brisk. But HaRav Shach, as the ultimate godol hador, and close disciple of the Rav of Brisk, knew and understood far better which was the proper road to follow at all times and knew how to gain more in the battle against religious persecution. And if a path was blazed to preserve the foundations of religion by joining the government coalition and accepting allocations for Torah institutions, we must pursue this path as before.

These things beg for clarification, since in our times we have a generation that grew up in the atmosphere of the botei medrash of our rabbonim, but are now preparing for a very noisy battle, when, according to present day rabbonim this poses a threat to the very existence of Torah and the continuation of our yeshivos and the increase of their students. The proper path is our best means of preserving our people's continuity throughout the generations. If they were doing this on their own, we might have remained silent. Surely there is room to say that in some battles the best tactic follows the approach of the Neturei Karta. But when they come to criticize and claim that the battle as it is being waged by our rabbonim, is weakness and lack of recognition of the full danger of these decrees, they are chopping off the very branch upon which the entire Torah rests.

It is clear and obvious that the tradition regarding the general strategy and the battle tactics to be used against the usurpers of our Torah is determined by the Torah leaders of each respective generation, for with their farsighted vision and with the full responsibility vested in them to save the generation, together with the pure selfless disinterest required in reaching such decisions, they are the only ones who can establish a position of action in such matters.


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