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Ask a Yeshiva Boy: Why are You Exempt?

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Everything is foreseen, yet free will is granted…the mystical side of Judaism and life

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Continuing our ongoing conversation with Yeranen Yaakov regarding exempting, or not, yeshiva boys…

(Yaak’s article here, mine here.)

Yeranen Yaakov wrote

The idea of learning Torah is a value in and of itself. One does not need to learn “for someone” in order to get the benefits of Torah learning. The learning itself is beneficial and should be the cause for giving thanks.

In fact, the gemara in Sota 21a says that the benefits of Torah learning is greater than those of doing Mitzvot. Helping others with Tefilin, distributing sweets, dancing with soldiers, etc. are wonderful things. However, none compare to the Mitzva of Torah learning. We know that Talmud Torah Keneged Kulam.

You mentioned those who prayed and learned with the soldiers. This is wonderful. Those who are on the level of teaching Torah to others, Bechavod.

Here’s a point you probably don’t understand, coming from a Chabad background. Most Yeshivot don’t encourage younger boys going out to the community to teach Torah – until they’re in a community Kollel setting – since that would limit the quality of their Limud Torah. And quality counts. There is a concept of Bitul Torah Be’eichut (learning Torah, but not on the level that one can learn Torah is considered Bitul Torah Be’eichut).

Whether it’s better for younger boys to go out to the community or to stay in the Beit Midrash is a larger Mahloket than one between me and you. Much greater people have debated this. Please understand that it is not black and white and that there is merit for just staying in the Beit Midrash, especially for those not able to teach, but even for those that can, it is an Ark of protection from the outside world, in order to nurture one’s Torah, so that they can go out to teach later in life.

Why Yeshivot in Ashkelon and Ashdod evacuated? I don’t know. I believe they were given a heter to do so by one of the Gedolim. Perhaps, they didn’t believe in their own protection. Does that negate it? Absolutely not.

In summary, the spiritual protection is not dependent on whether they do OTHER THINGS for the community. The fact that they are doing THIS THING – i.e., learning Torah – shows that they care for the future of Kelal Yisrael. And even if they didn’t care for Kelal Yisrael, which I doubt, Torah learning is STILL beneficial.

Therefore, please thank your local Yeshiva boy who is learning, regardless of for whom he’s learning.

Reb Akiva responded…

While I won’t disagree with your points, we do not live in the time of the shvatim. If they expect to _voluntarily_ be treated NOT as Shevet Levi, but as the Kohanim (not going off to war and living off the trumah of the rest), they’re going to have to share more than just a locked-away spiritual value.

By the way, I fully agree and don’t expect yeshiva bochrim to be running off to do outreach or Torah classes, or comforting during war efforts. We’ll leave that to Chabad and Breslev, they’re strong enough and prepare for it. But 25 year old married kollel men are a different story (they’re not boys to be protected).

It’s a very tough position to say you want to stay isolated, receive the safety benefits of the country, use the semi-free health system, receive support payments, AND religious payments, and then say you do not want to contribute defensive personnel even to units that meet a reasonable set of religious needs (though it’s not a good environment, and it’s certainly a foreign not-isolated one – but the country can’t choose to disband it’s army and live), and don’t want to provide any societal benefit that the average person can see or appreciate.

The last IS the point. If you want my secular co-workers from Tel Aviv to be willing to support AND exempt, then you’ve got to do SOMETHING to show you CARE and want to provide them a direct value. Doesn’t have to be a big one… Torah classes, support during tough times, heck just visiting the army bases before the holidays to show support and appreciation (like Chabad going to the bases to bring sufganiot for Chanukah and to shake a lulav for Sukkot).

Yaak responded…

I hear what you’re saying. My point, however, is that we must convince ourselves of the truth that Limud Hatorah is beneficial first before we can convince the secular public of it. Hence, the “Thank a Yeshiva boy” idea.

Reb Akiva responds…

Interestingly we had a discussion on exactly this topic after Mincha during Pirke Avos.  We know there were righteous individuals, we know them from Torah and Midrash, between Adom and Noach, and between Noach and Avraham.  Yet Pirke Avos tells us there were 10 generations without a righteous man until Noach, and Noach was only righteous in his generation, and another 10 generations until Avraham without.

What was the difference between Noach and Avraham, and between the other righteous that are seemingly ignored?

…Their light didn’t radiate outside their tent’s.  Their “Torah” was only for themselves.  They studied but did not share…

…and are not called righteous in the Mishne.


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