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Monday, July 18, 2011

Matos, Bamidbar 31:4. Elef LaMatteh. Direct Responsibility for a Soldier

When Operation Cast Lead was being waged, the Tanchuma in this week's parsha became widely known.  The Tanchuma here is on passuk 31:4, in Siman 3.  It's also in the Medrash Rabba Bamidbar 23:2- or is it 22:3.  The Tanchuma in Siman 3 on the passuk אלף למטה אלף למטה לכל מטות ישראל תשלחו לצבא says the following:

 אלף למטה אלף למטה. יש אומרים, אלפים מכל שבט ושבט שלח. ויש אומרים, שלשת אלפים מכל שבט ושבט. שנים עשר אלף חלוצי צבא, ושנים עשר אלף לשמור את הכלים, ועליהם הוא אומר, שניך כעדר הקצובות וגו'. ושנים עשר אלף לתפלה. ומנין. שכך כתיב, אלף למטה אלף למטה, הרי שני אלפים. וימסרו מאלפי ישראל. מהו וימסרו. שהם נמסרין זוגות זה לזה.

When describing the conscription for the war with Midian, the Torah says that each tribe will provide one thousand soldiers, and the Torah repeats the words:  Elef Lamatteh, elef lamatteh.  The Medrash explains the repetition (and the word וימסרו) to mean that besides the thousand soldiers conscripted from each sheivet, an additional two thousand people were separated from each sheivet.  Each soldier had two people assigned to him.  These were one for support, like providing food and transportation, and one to daven and learn Torah as a merit to keep his soldier safe.


Rav Elyashiv shlit"a (דברי אגדה p.321) brings this Medrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 22:3) and says that this requirement of tefilla, having one person davenning for the safety and success of each soldier, was for a battle that was declared explicitly by Hashem and so was predestined to be successful.   Additionally, we add the leadership of Pinchas, the call of the chaztotzros and the presence of the Aron Hakodesh and the Tzitz of the Kohen Gadol.  Also, we can also assume that the Dor Dei’ah as a whole, all the people who davenned every day during the war as they always davenned, knew how to daven for the success of the war and said tehillim for safety and success.  Despite all that siyata dishmaya, Moshe earmarked for each and every soldier a meilitz yosher.  One can only imagine that in our time, writes Rav Elyashiv, we should have 10 people davening and learning (Torah magna umatzla, Sotah 21a,) for the safety of every single soldier.

See also Makkos 10a:
א"ר יהושע בן לוי מאי דכתיב (תהילים קכב) עומדות היו רגלינו בשעריך ירושלם מי גרם לרגלינו שיעמדו במלחמה שערי ירושלם שהיו עוסקים בתורה 
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: Dovid Hamelech attributed victory in war to the Jews in Jerusalem who supported the troops with their Torah study.  By whose merit do we remain standing after battle?  In the merit of those who are in Jerusalem studying Torah.

During that war, the Arutz 7 News Organization printed this article about this project, and quoted the Bostoner Rebbe, and yibadlu lechaim Rav Simcha Kook and Reb Chaim Kanievsky as strongly supportive.

קריאה: להתפלל להצלחת חיילי צה"ל

רבה של רחובות, הרב שמחה הכהן קוק, והאדמו"ר מבוסטון, הרב לוי יצחק הורוביץ, יצאו היום בקריאה לציבור לשאת תפילה בעד חיילי צה"ל הנלחמים בעזה.
פרסום ראשון: 05/01/09, 19:17
אליה שילה

הרב הראשי של רחובות, הרב שמחה הכהן קוק, והאדמו"ר מבוסטון, הרב לוי יצחק הורוביץ, יצאו היום בקריאה לציבור לשאת תפילה בעד חיילי צה"ל הנלחמים בעזה.

במקביל קראו הרבנים לכל חייל החפץ שיתפללו בעדו להתקשר לטלפון 02-581-1911, ולמסור את שמו ואת שם אמו, אין צורך בשמות המשפחה.

"ולעת כזאת חובתנו לחוש את אחדות כלל ישראל בלב ובנפש להרבות בתפילה ובכל העניינים, כי עת צרה היא ליעקב וכו' ובעהשי"ת ממנה ייוושע. באנו לעורר, לבקש, ולהוסיף עניין של זיכוי הרבים ביותר", כותבים הרבנים.

"תורתנו הקדושה מעידה כי במלחמת מדין נצטוו להיחלץ "אלף למטה אלף למטה". ואיתא במדרש רבה ובילקוט שמעוני ש"וימסרו" היינו עוד אלף למטה. פירושו שהיו נמסרין זוגות זוגות, כדי שיהיו מתפללים איש על רעהו. ואכן במלחמת מדין נאמר "ולא נפקד ממנו איש". ובודאי העובדה שניצלו כולם הייתה בגלל תפילת כלל ישראל", הוסיפו הרבנים.

הרבנים מציינים כי דבר זה הובא לפני מרן הגאון רבי חיים קניבסקי שליט"א, הרב שמח בדבר, והוסיף ואמר שכך גם נהג דוד המלך ע"ה שכל אחד שיצא להילחם, הכינו יהודי נוסף, שתפקידו היה, להתפלל עבור היוצא, ויש א"כ הסכמת דוד המלך ע"ה לתפילות אלו.

בנוסף קוראים הרבנים לכל אחד המצוי בגלל המלחמה במצוקה או בחרדה, במקלט ובכל אתר, לפנות למספר הנ"ל וגם שמו יועבר לאותם אלו שקיבלו על עצמם להוסיף בתפילה ובתלמוד תורה עבור המבקש, "ובעזהשי"ת נזכה מן השמים גם אנו לנאמר "ולא נפקד ממנו איש".
"ובזה אנו קוראים גם לכל מי שרוצה לקיים דברי חכמים ולהוסיף בתורה ותפילה, להצטרף ולהיכנס לפיתקא של תפילות, להתקשר למספר הנ"ל ולקבל שם של חייל או אחר לכוון את תוספות תורתו ותפלתו לזכות חבירו", מוסיפים הרבנים וחותמים, "גם נשים צדקניות יכולות לקבל על עצמן להתפלל עבור חברה השרויה במצוקה עקב המלחמה"

The organization that arranged these shidduchim was called, of course, Elef Lamatteh.  Here is their website.

 Although this idea became well known in '09, my sister, Rebbitzen Faskowitz of Queens, who is married to Rabbi Moshe Faskowitz of the Torah Center of Hillcrest, wrote an article that was printed in the Jewish Press, suggesting this idea during the 2006 war in Lebanon, that people should have the name of a specific soldier for whom to be mispallel for success and safety.  It's a lot more effective when you're being mispallel and learning for a specific person with a name that you know, especially when he is putting himself in harm's way to protect you.  The least you can do is daven and learn to protect him.

Baruch Hashem, there's no hot war going on.  But soldiers are still being conscripted and soldiers are still endangered, and they're doing their job to protect the yishuv in Eretz Yisrael.  It is still a good idea to have the name of a specific soldier in mind.  Since individuals cannot do this, and the Elef Lamateh organization is not currently in business, I would suggest that shuls figure out how many mispallelim they have, men and women, and get an equal number of names from a contact in Israel, who will circulate a form on Facebook or something like that in which soldiers who consent to the arrangement can submit their names, and then assign a soldier to each and every single adult in the shul.  Keep track of your soldier!  If you want to send him a salami or her a box of cookies, that would be fine, too, but don't let that get in the way of your real job- protecting him or her with your Tefilla and Torah.


Update:
I recently became aware of a Sicha attributed to Harav Weintraub in which he shares with us a strikingly different perspective.  I think that you can see that his primary concern is that one might develop a sense of parity or privity with people who hate the Torah and the Halacha.  On that basis, he makes a policy decision, as you will see, and policy decisions are not always pretty.  I found it on the Life in Israel blog.  You will have to click on each picture to make it comfortable to read. 







13 comments:

Michael Kopinsky said...

I don't want to write b'arichus now, but at the time, one of the negative responses to this made me come to the very hard realization that there are some in the Chareidi community who crossed the line of Eilu v'Eilu.

I realize that I'm leaving a bomb here without explaining, but the explanation is too hard. Maybe later I'll gather the strength.

Chaim B. said...

Why did this same takanah not apply during the wars against Sichon/Og?

Anonymous said...

Who picks the ten people davening and learning? What if everyone wants to do it? Who's going to fight? Who's going to die? My children? Maybe my children should be the ones saying tehillim and yours should be the ones in the field. Should only the secular Jews get blown up because they don't know how to learn? It's a morally bankrupt argument. The Chareidim in Israel aren't willing to make the sacrifice so they invent justifications that what they're doing is "also important". Is the learning in Hesder Yeshivas on such a low level they need to make up for it with service? Is the tehillim said in KBY, Hakotel, or Gush less valid? They want to say tehillim? Good- do it next to your tank like thousands of other soldiers. Also, I have to take issue with this statement "they're doing their job to protect the yishuv in Eretz Yisrael" They're fighting for the state. They're not dying for what you seem to think they're dying for. They aren't fighting for the right to live in a Yishuv. You can do that in New York or Peterson Park without the bloodshed.

b said...

Chaim- that's the topic for the second post I have planned- what distinguished this war such that according to Rashi's Sifri, the Leviim fought along with everyone else, and other chilukim.

Anonymous- Mah pishi umah chatasi? Morally bankrupt? Did I say that Chareidim shouldn't fight? Are the Chareidim inventing excuses? Whatever problem you have with the attitude of the old fashioned yeshiva people is not the fault of the Sifri. And what's your problem with my use of the term yishuv? Is there not a yishuv in Eretz Yisrael? Yes, there's a state, too, but the yishuv, the lives of actual Jews, is far more important to me than the political categorization.

Welcome to the Three Weeks, when Jews are at each others' throats even more than usual.

Anonymous said...

A. Yes, they are making excuses
B. Of course it's not the fault of the Sifri, but using the Sifri to justify not serving is wrong.
C. It seemed to me that this post was something of an endorsement for the Charedi view in Israel that what they do is just as important as serving (something i've heard from chareidim in the states as well). If i misunderstood I apologize.
D. I think the term yishuv is just a simplistic and inaccurate way of describing what they are fighting for. There are "Yishuvs" all over the world, I like to think that what we have in Israel goes beyond merely a lot of Jews living in one place.Obviously protecting Jewish lives is the main purpose.

b said...

Too bad you can't put pictures into these comments, because if ever there was a time to use the quiche on the right side....

As far as I know, theoretically the Israeli system only exempts people who are actively involved in learning in yeshiva. I wonder if the idea of exempting Yeshiva students is unique to Chareidi society.

News Article:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a presidential decree authorizing the deferment of military conscription for young clerics and seminary students.

Vatican Code of Canon Law:

Can. 289 §1. Since military service is hardly in keeping with the clerical state, clerics and candidates for sacred orders are not to volunteer for military service except with the permission of their ordinary

Historical Fact:

Clerics and students were exempt from military service during the middle ages.

Of course, the idea of clerical deferment is anathema to our Mesora. On the contrary, it is the tzadikim and chasidim who were the best soldiers.

But more to the point, I wonder under what circumstances the chareidim would willingly join the army. As I understand it, the resistance is not monolithic. There are many differing reasons why most chareidim don't serve. The ones I'm familiar with are:
1. The army historically was, certainly in the early years, a blatant means of anti-religious indoctrination.
2. The army was often hostile, to religious observances, such as kashrus, tznius. and Shemiras Shabbos.
3. The army is an arm of and requires loyalty to Medinas Yisrael, as you mentioned, and many yeshiva people have either theological ambiguity or antipathy toward the Medina, and live in Israel because of Kedushas Ha'aretz, not because of the political State.

To assert that they feel that their blood is more precious, or that they are cowards, or that they all are Neturei Karta enemies of the Medina, or that they are raised to be parasites, sounds like more like Tel Avivian propaganda than reasoned analysis, wouldn't you agree?

In any case, I think that most American yeshiva Jews find the resistance to military service puzzling, but defer to the Gedolei Yisrael that set the policy in place and zealously uphold it even now. Even the Ponovezher Rov didn't encourage his talmidim to join the army. I wonder why?

Anonymous said...

A. Now we're comparing ourselves to the Russians? The RUSSIANS?

B. If I had to guess, the Arab armies would literally have to be outside the Yeshivas door for them to pick up a gun. I've never heard stories of massive Charedi enlistment in 67 or 73.

C. The anti religious indoctrination argument certainly doesn't apply anymore with units like Nahal Chareidi- an all male base with glatt food. Anyway, it's not like the gedolim at the beginning of our state were willing to negotiate for individual charedi units. Didn't the Chazon Ish say that Sheirut Leumi was Yareg V'al Ya'avor? I remember a quote from his artscroll "biography" that one of his gabbaim or students said that even if the government was paying girls to say tehillim it would be assur (working for the government). So I'm pretty sure it is an anti state thing.

D. I agree that many charedim/yeshivish people are bothered by it- but then they read divrei torah like the one you posted and are reassured that everything's ok. That was my issue with the post.

Anonymous said...

Also, as far as the Russian argument goes- what percentage of the Russian population is getting that exemption? Further, what happens if all of the tefillos of the charedi movemnt are answered and 80% of Israel becomes Charedi? Who serves? Who decides?

b said...

Yes. Even those crude, piggish, profane, filthy Russians realize this.

I realized that this has come to exactly the point where this needs to move to the next post, about Shevet Levi and Milchemes Midian and, as Chaim pointed out, why this idea of having designated mispallelim was only taught here and not at the earlier wars. I hope to have it up soon.

great unknown said...

If 80% of Israelis were chareidi, there would be no need for anyone to fight.

great unknown said...

Three-weeks addendum: If 80% of chareidim were chareidim, there might not be any need to fight.

Michael Kopinsky said...

Now we're redefining the terms to the point that the discussion becomes meaningless.

b said...

These comments really belong on the newer post.

In any case, I invited a reader who is a yodei'a sefer and halacha to write from the Dati Le'umi perspective, and I plan to post it when I get it. If any of you, particularly the more vituperative of you, would like to post as well, I would be happy to look at what you have and post it. I have to agree that it falls under the rubric of eilu v'eilu.