Haredim cancel vacations due to war

Yeshiva heads say students will make "spiritual contribution" to war effort.

haredi silouhette 298 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
haredi silouhette 298 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Leading haredi rabbis and yeshiva heads have called on their students to cancel the vacations they usually take after Tisha Be'av during the period known as bein hazmanim (between the times), because of the military confrontations in the North and the South. The religious leaders said they wanted their students, who are exempt from military service, to make their own spiritual contribution to the war effort. They would continue to devote their time to prayer and study Torah, which, according to tradition, helps protect Jews from their enemies. They were also concerned that a mass exodus from the yeshivot to vacation sites in a time of war might produce a backlash of resentment among secular and modern-Orthodox Israelis who serve in the army. "Imagine secular Israelis' reaction if a group of yeshiva students go for a hike some place up North and get stranded like they do every year, and the IDF is called in to bail them out," said one yeshiva head, quoted in the haredi weekly Bakehila. "Image the desecration of God's name." As one yeshiva student put it, "We don't feel the need to apologize for not serving in the army, but we also think it is wrong to go on vacation at a time when men our age are risking their lives to fight the enemy." Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of Shas and the most revered Sephardi halachic authority, was the first to call to cancel the summer vacations. However, many Sephardi yeshiva students feel obligated to adhere to the rulings issued by their own yeshiva heads. Rabbi Natan Zvi Finkel, head of Jerusalem's Mir Yeshiva, which has about 4,000 students, also called for studies to continue during the bein hazmanim period. "At this time, when our enemies raise their heads and outside the sword bereaves and inside there is fear, and in light of the rabbinic teaching that the world is saved from destruction only thanks to Torah scholars who sit in the synagogues and study halls learning, I once again call from the depths of my heart to each and every yeshiva student, may they blessed with long life, to strengthen themselves as much as possible to continue to learn in the yeshiva. "Each should know the extent of his responsibility for sanctifying God's name and carrying the yoke with our Jewish brothers. Multiply prayers and learning so that our Father in heaven, may he be blessed, will be compassionate with us and save us from all our troubles," Finkel said. At Bnei Brak's Ponevezh Yeshiva, known in the haredi world as the "mother of all yeshivot," the rabbis hav sent a clear message to their students that this year there should be no vacations. David, a student at the yeshiva, said that there was a logistical problem with having some 2,000 Ponevezh students continue to study. He said that every summer the yeshiva hosts hundreds of men who take time off from work to study at Ponevezh. This initiative, called Yarchei Kala, would make it difficult to maintain regular studies at the yeshiva. According to haredi sources, the two most senior spiritual leaders in the haredi yeshiva world, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and Rabbi Yehuda Leib Steinman, disagreed on whether to do away with the vacation altogether (Elyashiv) or to close the yeshivot but encourage individual study and prayer (Steinman). Steinman argued that canceling the vacation would be detrimental to learning in the month of Elul, when the students normally return from their bein hazmanim vacations. He recommended going ahead with the vacations, allowing students to rest so that they could then resume their studies with renewed strength. According to the sources, Steinman cited the Yom Kippur War to support his recommendation. He said that the vacation after the Yom Kippur War was canceled, and that students' studies suffered as a result. In contrast, Elyashiv said the vacation was unnecessary. Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, head of the Edah Haredit's Rabbinical Court, told The Jerusalem Post it was an "inopportune time" to go on vacation. He called for all yeshiva students to continue to study and pray. Many yeshivot that belong to the Edah Haredit do not go on vacation after Tisha Be'av anyway. Sternbuch declined to say whether a special prayer should be said for the success of IDF soldiers. Shmuel Popenheim, editor of the weekly Ha'edah, the mouthpiece of the Edah Haredit, said that mass prayer vigils had been held for the past week. "We say psalms and special prayers for peace and for the protection of all Jews everywhere," said Popenheim. "But we do not pray for the IDF." Poppenheim explained that theologically it was problematic to pray specifically for the success of "Zionist soldiers." "We don't pray for the IDF because it causes a blurring of vision, as if we were advocating a body that is not based on Torah ideals. People might get the wrong impression. "But we do pray for the safety of every Jew, including a Jewish soldier." he said.