“This is a gezeiras shemad that is a yehareg v’al yaavor, that it is better to be killed than to transgress it. Each problem faced by an individual is part of the shemad and is a problem of Klal Yisrael. These things are simple, but they must be stated clearly. It is clear and obvious that we must not speak of any compromise on the subject. If we would have wanted to exist on compromise, we could have done it 2,000 years ago, and spared ourselves all the pogroms and massacres. We must not open even a crack, and if we are strong, then they will understand that there’s no chance. At such a time, we have to know that every problem of an individual bachur is a problem of Klal Yisrael,” said the Rosh Yeshivah Harav Shmuel Auerbach, shlita, in a sichas chizuk on the burning issue of the yeshivah draft. The drashah was delivered on Motzoei Shabbos in Yeshivas Maalos HaTorah in Yerushalayim.
The Rosh Yeshivah spoke to a packed beis medrash about the yeshivah draft decree.
“I didn’t come here to make speeches. But these are simple things that are really no chiddush. The tzibbur was raised on these concepts since childhood. There is no doubt about it, but sometimes there is a situation when it becomes an eis ledaber, a time to speak, and we have to say it aloud. Just as we daven [out loud] to Hakadosh Baruch Hu even though He hears us and knows our thoughts, so, too, we have to say it even though we all know it in our hearts.
“In all honesty, katonti — I am too small for this — but now is not the time for katonti. Dovid Hamelech says: ‘L’kedoshim asher b’aretz heimah, v’adirei kol cheftzi bam.’ There were kedoshim who devoted their lives, and all that we ask for is in their merit. There were many gezeiros shemad in the time of the Tosafos. Rabbeinu Tam was almost killed, and at the last minute he was spared, and that’s how the Tosafos was compiled.
“But this time, the decree is coming from our errant brothers. But they will not be able to do anything to us if we stand firmly for our souls, and declare that it is as clear as the sun that this is a gezeiras shemad whose rule is yehareg v’al yaavor! It is clear to all that there can be no perpetuation of Yiddishkeit if there aren’t holy yeshivos, without limitations! There shouldn’t have to be the slightest worry that in a few years we have to leave, chalilah … Torah is ‘shivti b’veis Hashem — Let me dwell in the House of Hashem … all the days of my life.’ And now they are coming to issue a decree to harm the bastions of Torah; how can we even consider compromising just because there is a decree? If we had wanted to compromise to prevent troubles, we could have done so two thousand years ago…
“These are such simple things, but we must state them firmly and clearly, and perhaps this way, they will penetrate the hearts of our errant brothers. Harav Yisrael Salanter says that Klal Yisrael is one body, and just like on Yom Kippur, when everyone is more inspired, it influences those who are distant, so, too, every time we have a hisorerus, it has an influence. If we declare our position firmly, it will influence them as well and prevent them from breaking us.
“The main thing is always what happens among us, within us. Harav Aryeh Levin, zt”l, the Mashgiach in Eitz Chaim, would cite the story with the Netziv and Yeshivas Volozhin. The Netziv told his son, Harav Chaim Berlin, to write down for generations that when Yeshivas Volozhin closed and the Netziv fell ill and passed away as a result, it was because of the demand by the government to introduce the study of language and civics, and the government shut the yeshivah down for their failure to comply. And then he told his son that in his opinion, the reason the yeshivah was closed was because at first they thought perhaps they should devote 15 minutes a day to the study of languages. And that’s how it all spiraled out of control. And today, they are talking about things that are much worse! The Netziv said that the reason was that we agreed [to behave in a manner] that outwardly, they would think that we agreed with their demands, and that’s why it came to this! If at first we would have stood up firmly for our souls, the yeshivah would not have closed! Today, too, we need to know this. It all begins, chalilah, from the slightest talk of the smallest compromise. But if we stand up for our souls, they won’t succeed at all.
“They are now trying to uproot what is left. Soon, we will be saying at the Seder: ‘It wasn’t only one who stood up to try and destroy us, and Hakadosh Baruch Hu saves us from their hands.’ That’s the way it’s been throughout the generations. ‘Not only one,’ and no, our errant brothers are looking to harm us. L’havdil, the non-Jews have also understood that Am Yisrael is the People of the Book, and there is no need for any proof of this. It is the entire fundamental of the existence of Yiddishkeit. With Hashem’s help, and in the merit of the kedoshim asher b’aretz heimah, we have merited to have toil, knowledge and sweetness of Torah. Is it possible that they will now come and destroy it?
“The main thing to stress is this detail, that it should be ingrained among us, that there are no grounds for any concessions whatsoever! This is yehareg v’al yaavor and we must not concede even the slightest. It is even more serious than the case of the Netziv, and I only cited that story to show how serious it is and how much it is incumbent upon us to stand strong.
“I don’t want to think chalilah that there is anyone who thinks otherwise. We have to stand strong for our souls. We have to know that when they threaten to take a bachur, it is not that bachur’s private problem; it is a Klal Yisrael problem. They are thinking how to carry it out by harassing individuals, but this is not a private family issue, it is a communal one. When there is uprooting of Yiddishkeit, each and every one that they try to take is part of the shemad, part of the uprooting.
“There is no room for any concessions on issues that are at the heart of Yiddishkeit. I feel that it is strange that I have to stand here and bring proofs. These are things that we have been raised with. When the issue of the yeshivah draft was raised before the Tchebiner Rav, zt”l, his face paled and he could hardly speak from fear and trembling. When he recovered, he said, ‘If they touch the heart of Klal Yisrael, what will be?’ Then there was talk that perhaps we would agree to something in order to fortify the rest, but he opposed anything of the sort. And now, certainly, that it comes in such an organized fashion, we must stand up to it, and then they will also begin to understand. Hashem will also put it in their hearts but it is all dependent on us. If we know how to stand up to defend our souls, then we will see the fulfillment of the promise of ‘It will not be forgotten from their children.’ Now we expect and ask that in the merit of the kedoshim of the past, that it should pass and nothing bad should happen, chalilah, and that everyone should be able to continue learning, with ahavah and yirah, and not in a way that they will suffer, because this is our life, and in this merit Klal Yisrael should be zocheh to the Geulah speedily in our day.”