Sunday, January 11, 2009

Whom does the Torah protect?

A Guest Post by Rafi G.
(originally posted on LII)

There has been considerable online discussion about the phenomenon of various haredi yeshivas in the southern part of Israel, those within the direct war zone, deciding they could not stay put and moving to learn in alternate locations around the country.

The sentiment is understandable, and I generally feel the same way. The yeshivas claim that there learning is what protects the country, equally or more so than the army does. If so, they should specifically stay put during the war and provide their protection to the area. They should not be leaving because of danger. Or is such a claim only lip service.

I can accept certain exceptions. Students from abroad whose parents are nervous. Students with anxiety or health issues. Individuals with issues could be allowed to leave, but the whole yeshiva?

I was here learning in yeshiva during the first Gulf War. Many yeshiva boys from the USA and England left Israel, even well before the war, because their parents, or they, were afraid. I did not agree with it, but I could understand it. I believed that the right place to be was in Israel. Thankfully my parents supported that decision, and were not nervous. they even decided to come to Israel on a solidarity mission with the UJA for a visit the week before the war, and stayed an extra week to be here for the first week of the war itself.

If you really believe in what you are doing, you have to act like it as well, not just say it.

So, the yeshivas have mostly packed up and left, moving to other cities temporarily where they could concentrate and study more intensely.

[at least] One yeshiva in the zone did not. Yeshivas Tifrach stayed in Moshav Tifrach.

Yeshivas Tifrach is known as the cream of the crop of Israeli yeshivas. I don't mean cream of the crop in brain power (though that might be true as well - I don't know). I mean in the sense that they really believe in what they are doing. They really, truly believe Torah is the only option. They are hard-core in Torah.

There was even an incident last week that a Color Red siren went off in the area including Tifrach announcing an incoming rocket attack. Nobody in the yeshiva budged from their seats to look for shelter. They continued learning. They truly believe what they say, that learning Torah protects Israel, and they therefore act on that belief.

The yeshivas that moved did not just pack up and leave. They realized the issues involved and asked the gedolim. the gedolim gave them permission, or perhaps instructions (depends what was exactly said), to find alternate locations. Tifrach was told they could stay put.

So, what is the difference between Tifrach and the rest of the yeshivas? Some cynics will say that most of the yeshivas don't really believe, and just pay lip service to the mantra.

But that is not the case. The answer was printed this week in the Haredi newspaper "Ha'Shavua".

Initially, the Rosh Yeshiva of Tifrach went to Rav Chaim Kanievsky to ask whether or not they should leave. Rav Kanievsky said to stay put, as the Torah will protect. A few days later, 2 rockets fell in the area of Tifrach. The RY asked again what to do. Rav Knaievsky sent him to Rav Elyashiv.
Rav Elyashiv told Tifrach that there is a difference between them and the yeshivas in Ashdod. The yeshivas in Ashdod are in a city that is a strategic location for Hamas to target. Therefore to rely on the Torah protecting, when sitting in a strategic location being directly targeted, means one would be relying on an open miracle. Since we do not pray and ask for open miracles, those yeshivas located in Ashdod should leave.

But because Tifrach itself is only "in the war zone" but itself is not a strategic location to be targeted, so they could stay put. The Torah will protect them, because to do so is not relying on an open miracle, as they are not being directly targeted.

The discussion is very nice, as it explains why Tifrach is not in danger, but the yeshivas in Ashdod are. However, I always thought the mantra of "The Torah protects" is one of a reality, not a request for a[n open] miracle. Also, this discussion implies that the Torah only protects those who are busy learning it, while it is used in general to say that the Torah learned by the few protect the whole country. What happened to that?

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