Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

6 Tammuz 5761 - June 27, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family

We have received a very strong and lengthy letter from "a shocked reader" in Bnei Brak taking exception to "Osher Leaves Yeshiva." Since we felt it deserved a serious reply, we asked a noted Torah educator, esteemed also in the Kiruv field (kerovim as well as rechokim), to include her comments in his rebuttal.

The gist of her letter, however: "I am fully aware that not all boys can stay in yeshiva full time. I am not here to judge or condemn, but for the Yated Neeman to legitimize it? The pride, excitement... satisfaction Osher feels at doing mitzvos in the Embassy and army are totally against the Bnei Torah's way of looking at things... Do you know how many teenage boys and girls read the Yated..."


In the installment of her memoirs which appeared in the Family section of the 24 Sivan issue, Mrs. Anni Rephun Fruchter wrote about her brother Osher leaving the yeshiva in which he studied and going to work in the Israeli embassy, eventually ending up in the U.S. army.

This seems to have upset some people who misinterpreted the publication of this story as Yated's endorsement of joining the army with all its spiritual hazards in contrast to the hallowed tradition of Jews in Europe going to all lengths to avoid service in a gentile army. Others seem concerned that mentioning the pride and excitement of Osher doing mitzvos in the embassy and army might have a negative impact on young readers by raising the idea of any alternative to prolonged yeshiva study.

Let us do justice to both Yated and Osher by clarifying some matters. Osher did not volunteer for military service. He was drafted and there was no legal or moral way to avoid his civic responsibility. Osher was not drafted into the army of a Russian czar intent on suppressing religious practice but, rather, into a framework which enabled him to freely practice his religion and even influence other Jews to follow suit. It would be an injustice to people like Lieutenant Meir Birnbaum, whose book and lectures about his military service are popular fare in the Torah world, and many others of his generation who were forced by circumstances to serve in the U.S. army, to ignore the kiddush Hashem they made during the period.

But the more important issue is the one suggested by the very title "Osher Leaves Yeshiva." It is hardly a secret that there are many young people for whom full time learning in a yeshiva beyond a certain point in their lives becomes counterproductive because of their intellectual or emotional inability to contend with the demands of yeshiva study. The appalling growth of the `dropout' community in Eretz Yisroel and everywhere else is the result of this situation.

There were dropouts in Osher's time as well, a good many of them due to financial circumstances, but in an understanding family they merely dropped out of yeshiva and not out of Yiddishkeit.

Perhaps critics of Osher's decision should take note of what Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato writes at the conclusion of his Mesilas Yeshorim:

"One can be a completely righteous Jew -- if, because of his need he is involved in simple labor -- just as if he never stopped learning!"

Readers of Yated are sophisticated enough to appreciate that the ideal for every Jew is unlimited Torah study. But when there is an undeniable need for "Osher to Leave Yeshiva," it is only self-defeating ostrich-necking in the sand to make believe that no alternative exists. Boruch Hashem that we have gedolim who are sensitive to this and who have given their encouragement to alternatives for the Oshers of our generation.


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