An unprecedented crisis calls for an extraordinary reaction.
On Monday night, a historic meeting of Gedolei Eretz Yisrael took place in Bnei Brak. The members of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudas Yisrael, the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Degel HaTorah and the Moetzet Chachmei HaTorah of Shas, gathered after the Shaked committee, tasked by the Israeli government with formulating the new draft law, voted to impose criminal sanctions — including a possible prison term — against yeshivah students who do not enlist in the army.
After the committee finalizes the last details of the draft law, including the precise quota number and how one is to define the term chareidi, the bill will be presented for a second and third reading in the Knesset Plenum, something which is expected to happen over the next two weeks.
The gravity and urgency of this crisis cannot be underestimated. This threat is specifically aimed at the Yeshivah student in Eretz Yisrael, but in reality, it is the Torah world as a whole that is under siege. As different parts of a single, inseparable entity, the Jews of the Diaspora must recognize that we too are being attacked. It is imperative that we rise to this occasion, and with our thoughts, tefillos, and actions, join with our brethren in Eretz Yisrael in this crucial hour. We must open our hearts and eyes to feel their pain and anguish, and undertake all that we possibly can on their behalf.
This is a time that calls for the closing of ranks for Torah Jewry, a time for putting aside differences and joining together in true achdus.
In the joint statement released by the Gedolei Eretz Yisrael at the conclusion of their meeting, the instructions to the bnei Torah were clear and unambiguous.
“The Moatzos Gedolei and Chachmei HaTorah… call on all the bnei yeshivos and kollelim not to enlist in the army under any circumstances, and not to capitulate to temptations or punishments of any kind, and not to cooperate with the army’s plans to establish a chareidi screening center [Mercaz Miyun Chareidi], but rather to continue learning day and night,” they declared.
The Gedolim also added that “learning Torah and keeping its mitzvos in holiness and purity are the protective wall for Am Yisrael, wherever they are, against any troubles, and that is what will stand strong in the difficult times that have befallen Klal Yisrael wherever they are, whether as a klal or on an individual basis, spiritually or physically.
“We must strengthen ourselves many times over in Torah learning and keeping the mitzvos in purity, along with all the nuances of halachah,” we were told.
The Gedolei Eretz Yisrael also called for an Atzeres Tefillah and mass protest, which has now been scheduled to take place this coming Sunday, Rosh Chodesh Adar II, at 4 p.m. Israel time, at the entrance to Yerushalayim and the surrounding areas. It will be attended by Gedolei Yisrael from across the spectrum.
Harav Shimon Schwab, zt”l, described a conversation he had with the Chofetz Chaim, zt”l, when he had merited to spend Shabbos Parashas Vayakhel-Pikudei 5690 (1930) in the presence of this spiritual giant.
“I am a Kohen, perhaps you have heard,” the Chofetz Chaim told him.
“Yes,” Harav Schwab replied.
“Are you also a Kohen?” The Chofetz Chaim asked.
“No,” he answered.
“A pity!” the Chofetz Chaim remarked, and related that when the Beis Hamikdash will be rebuilt, everyone will sense a great longing to have a part in the avodah of the Beis Hamikdash, but only Kohanim will be able to do so.
“This is all because when Moshe Rabbeinu said ‘Mi laShem Eilei — Whoever is for Hashem should come to me,’ and all of the bnei Levi gathered, your great-great-grandfather heard and didn’t run to Moshe,” the Chofetz Chaim continued. “[Therefore] he, and his descendants lost the merit of partaking in the avodah in the Beis Hamikdash.
“When Mi laShem Eilei is called, all must run, otherwise one loses out,” the Chofetz Chaim concluded.
Our generation is once again being tested, and the call from Eretz Yisrael is one of Mi laShem Eilei, let us be sure to respond to the call.