While New Jersey native and yeshiva student Aaron Sofer was missing in the Jerusalem Forest, Rav Aharon Shteinman, shlita, today’s leading Lithuanian charedi rabbi, instructed Israeli students at the monumental Mir yeshiva to put down their Talmuds and look for Sofer in the forest. (“Parents of missing American yeshiva student offer $28,000 reward,” August 29.)
But charedim and their leaders have refused every single proposed compromise that would draft their youth – or at least some of them – into the Israel Defense Forces. They won’t even discuss national service. While the children of secular and religious Zionist Jews fight and die to protect our people and our land, charedim have argued that they, too, play a key role in protecting Israel.
Torah study, they say, is a spiritual shield for Israel, which is as important as the military’s physical shield.
So then why would Rav Shteinman order Mir students out of the yeshiva and into the forests? After all, many non-charedim already were searching physically for Sofer. Shouldn’t the Mir have been a place to search for Sofer spiritually?
Now, you could argue, leaving their gemaras for a day to do the “national service” of searching for a missing Jew is one thing, but being drafted for years is a much different matter.
Well, to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw and/or Winston Churchill, if they can do it for a day but refuse to do it for a week/month/year, then “we’re just haggling over the price.”
The premier argument for granting deferrals to yeshiva students has just been demolished. If they can put down their gemaras to search for one of their own, they can do the same to defend our nation against hostile enemies
I say draft ’em all.