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    National Service

    Israeli soldier prayingIsrael has been wracked recently by dissension about whether Charedim should perform military or national service. The Charedi-bashing is unpleasant, and it is not helped when Charedi spokesmen accuse others of wanting to harm the study of the Torah.

    Actually this is not the issue at all. Nobody pretends that a Jewish state can continue to be Jewish without Torah study. The issue is whether it can be combined with national service – of whatever kind – without harming the Torah.

    The following considerations – all of which can be handled relatively easily – are part of the answer:
    • Some people are not is intellectually fitted for a demanding regime of study; for them practical activity might be more appropriate.
    • National service sounds so threatening to some people that their personal equilibrium would suffer.
    • Mixing in the “outside” world might threaten the intensely religious lifestyle.
    • Time devoted to national service might affect the time available for study.

    The decisive answer is ideological. Just as the Talmud in Kiddushin decides that study leads to practice, so Yeshivah study should (and can) be taken out into and enhance life in the “outside” world.

    A doctor with little if any Torah learning once sat with me in a Chabad school and saw the boys debating the Mishnah with their rebbe. The doctor’s incisive comment was, “They’re learning how to think!” That’s what should happen these days in Israel – the learning should enter the arena of where people are and how they think and act.

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