The davening on Shabbat in our synagogue proceeded at a leisurely pace. Nothing hinted at what was to transpire. The chazzan “chazaned”… the Torah reader read and the Gabbai did what Gabbais do all over the world. Kohen, Levi, third aliyah, — everything was normal… no hint at anything… fourth aliyah, fifth, end of the sixth

And then it happened. The bombshell!!! Someone re-wrote my Torah Scroll

I couldn’t believe what I saw. I read the passage. Again. A third time. It couldn’t be…but there it was. Black on Chumash. “When you go out to war” says the Torah. The entire nation is to assemble and in the pre battle roll call just before the march to the battle field, the Draft Board stands in front of the troops and reads out the List of Draft Exemptions

And what is on the list

Did you build a new house?

Did you plant a new vineyard?

Were you recently engaged to be married?

Are you (well, excuse the term)…afraid?

Wait a Minute…What Happened Here? Who re-wrote my Torah? Where is “Torato Omanuto?” What Happened to “The Tent of Torah”? How did the Tal committee Law disappear?

For years, we have been preached by the Haredim representatives that Torah study is the only protector of the People of Israel; that Torah Study is the true service – not that of the Israel Defense Forces. If so, how is it that Moshe did not understand this elementary principle? What are these principles about a person who built a house but did not dedicate it or someone who planted a vineyard and did not use it or a man who married his love but did not consummate. Even recognizing that someone who is afraid might affect his comrades

How is it that the Torah does not at all mention the Charedi lifestyle? Not even as an option as a way of life!!! In the Torah, all members of the nation are equally obligated. There are no special privileges…there are no dodgers… there are no parasites. The Torah is not to be turned into a source of personal benefit for the chosen few.

The criterion “Torato Emunato” is a recent Haredi invention. It was never used in the past an as an excuse to avoid one’s obligation to the Nation of Israel. Only in Israel was the Art of Torah study transformed into the Art of dodging Army service as well as obligations to society. Only in the State of Israel the concept of Torah study, Haredi style, has become a convenient tool for a man (a “gever”) to ignore his contractual obligations under the ketuba to provide for his family. Until Israel’s Governments of the left and the right succumbed to Haredi extortion, there was no connection between Torah Study and the life of a parasite. In prior days, the life of a young man was to study in his formative years and then to acquire a trade or profession so as to become a wage earner. When the current Haredi parties succeeded to squeeze the public coffers to confer special payments to lifetime students and for Haredi institutions, this style of life became legitimate. Contrast this with the Talmidei Chachamim of the Mishna and Talmud eras… the Rishonim and the Achronim… almost all of them… supported themselves. Actually they – and we – are cautioned a number of times not to use Torah for purposes that are not legitimate. The Talmud even postulated that the few who endeavored to opt out of society were not successful in doing so

This Shabbat I was again reminded that the Torah does not allow for the way of life that Hareidism have chosen. The Torah understands that there are situations where individuals are to be temporarily exempted from military service. The Torah recognizes economic difficulties, family issues and even psychological problems. All this only for a “Milchemet Reshut” – a war waged following a decision of the Authorities – not a war where the Torah has obligated the Nation to go to battle. That is a Milchemet Mitzvah – “A Commanded War”. In the latter case…”All go to war. Even the bridegroom from his room and the Bride (imagine that – Feminism in Jewish Society) from her Wedding Canopy.” On the most important day of her entire life – when the Nation calls – SHE is ready, unless, of course, she’s a Haredit

In next week’s parsha, we will read, “If a man takes a new wife, he shall not perform army service…he shall remain in his home for one year and shall serve the woman that he betrothed.”a

This reminds me of a personal story. My wife and I were married in 1987 – when our country was mired in Lebanon. Naturally after we fixed the date for the marriage, I then received a call up notice for active – Lebanese border – miluim (reserve duty) for a period of one month. The planned wedding date was right in the middle of the service period. The army – in its mercy and wisdom – agreed to grant me one entire week of freedom – commencing with our wedding date

At the end of the Sheva Brachot period, I packed my army things and turned to the North to reach my unit which was situated in Kaukabe – about 20 km from the wrong side of the boarder – inside Lebanon. My wife, a bride of one week, packed her things and went to her parents’ home to spend the remaining weeks of our separation. As she walked, she met a childhood friend who had joined the Haredi ranks and had married a short time before us. She knew that we had just married and she was a bit surprised to see my wife walking by herself carrying a small bag. To her puzzlement my wife explained that she will be staying at her parents until I return from miluim. The young Haredi lady’s reaction – which will remain in my memory forever – was: “Baruch HaShem. We don’t have probleme like that.”a

And this is the real problem!!a

Arieh Friedman, Deputy Mayor of Ra’anana, Chairman of the Local Mafdal council