For the week ending 15 September 2012 / 27 Elul 5772

Do They Know Their Own Position?

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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The current talk in secular circles about limiting deferment from military duty to iluyim (geniuses) and drafting all the rest is an echo of the attempt made almost a century ago by the Zionist leadership to create a "yeshiva" for exceptional students that would be fully supported by the World Zionist Organization.

To achieve this goal the head of the WZO, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, met in 1918 with the rabbinical leadership of Jerusalem. In response to his eloquent presentation of what such a "modern yeshiva" could do for Jewry, Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld rejected his proposal with an unequivocal "no" and urged him to leave the fate of yeshivot in the hands of people to whom Torah is sacred.

One compromising participant in that historic meeting called the stunned Weizmann to the side and tried to comfort him by telling him that Rav Sonnenfeld was a fanatic and that if the reforms Weizmann sought would be introduced gradually, they could eventually be accepted. Weizmann placed his hand on this fellow's shoulder and said to him:

"I know my position and I believe in it. Rav Sonnenfeld knows his position and believes in it. But I don't know your position and I suspect that neither do you."

The polarization in Israel today has created a virtual cultural war with the chareidi and secular publics taking well-defined positions on issues such as the future of yeshivot in Israel. The political leadership which must make the ultimate decision on whether to force yeshiva students to perform military or national service do not seem to know what their own position is in regard to what should and can be done.

May Heaven bless them with the understanding of what really can secure Israel forever.

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