Kikar Shabbos recently publicized for the first time a letter from 1998 written by gedolei Yisroel in support of the IDF’s Nachal Hachareidi battalion founded at the time. The scope of their haskomah was limited.
Signed by the rosh yeshiva of Chevron Rav Simcha Zissel Broide, rosh yeshivas Eitz Chaim Rav Avrohom Yaakov Zeleznik (members of the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah of Degel Hatorah), the mashgiach Rav Shlomo Wolbe, Rav Chaim Pinchos Sheinberg, Rav Nissim Karelitz, and the rov of Ramat Hasharon Rav Yaakov Edelstein, the letter stated as follows:
“We have seen the ETU (Ein Torosom Umnosom) plan to save bochurim who have left the framework of yeshivos and for whom Torah study is no longer their occupation. We know Rav… who is mashgiach in Yeshivas… and the spiritual director of a bais medrash for bochurim who have left yeshivos in Yerushalayim, and other avreichim with him who are experienced in drawing these bochurim to Torah and yiras shomayim, and in their opinion there is hope to save them, rehabilitate them and build their futures.”
The gedolim emphasized that they were not granting a blanket legitimization of chareidi army programs. Everything depended upon their counsel being consulted at every step.
“This letter is not an agreement with the whole above plan,” the letter continued. “But since we know that their intent is pure and in order to increase the honor of sheim shomayim with their important program to save these bochurim from descending to the pit, to return them to the world of Torah and yeshivos, and we know that they will not turn right or left from the counsel and guidance of the gedolei and luminaries of the generation, we support their actions and bless them that the shechinah should rest upon the work of their hands and that no harm should result. Whoever takes counsel from the zekeinim does not stumble, ‘And may Hashem’s pleasantness etc.’”
When it was falsely publicized that the army program was also meant for regular bochurim, Rav Yosef Kupshitz, Rav Yehuda Adas, Rav Yekutiel Efrati (a confidant of Rav Elyashiv) and Rav Chizkiyohu Mishkovski (a confidant of Rav Shteinman) publicized a firm rebuttal of the error.
“The public has an erroneous attitude which threatens to alter the path our rabbonim passed down to us, to raise youngsters solely in Torah institutions with no change or innovation,” they wrote. “Recently, it was publicized in the name of gedolei Yisroel that it is permitted to guide the youth to a different path… We hereby publicize that this is not so and nothing can be changed by a hairsbreadth.”
Rav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv and Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman expressed no support for the army program at all, and Rav Shteinman wrote to the prominent mashgiach Rav Don Segal that any rumor to the contrary was false.
“You have heard consistent rumors that I support the issue of the Nachal Hachareidi and that it is good for bochurim who are weak in learning or yiras shomayim,” he wrote. “[I hereby emphasize] that this obviously incorrect. The issue spoken of was about bochurim who desecrate Shabbos and transgress other absolute chiyuvei krisus, and of a father wishes to save his son and prevent the street from harming him. We do not have the power to prevent this. But it is certainly an unpardonable sin if someone through persuasion or any other means causes someone who is not desecrating Shabbos and [transgressing] other chiyuvei krisus to end up there.”
At the time, in reaction to statements by justices of the High Court that planned to alter the automatic deferment of yeshiva students, Rav Elazar Menachem Man Shach publicized a letter stating, “You should know that it is completely forbidden to go to the army and one must be give his life over this matter.”
A similar letter was signed by rosh yeshivas Be’er Yaakov Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro, Rav Simcha Zissel Broide, Rav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, Rav Nissim Karelitz, Rav Shlomo Wolbe, Rav Shmuel Halevi Wosner and other gedolim.
David Steger – Matzav.com Israel