The Israeli Supreme Court just decided to continue with the Tal Law, which permits the exemption of yeshiva students from regular army service.
Some people are surprised, since the Supreme Court generally decides in ways that make religious life more difficult.
But before I go on about the court's decision, I want to make it clear that I personally do not think that it is forbidden for religious Jews to serve in the army. And I don't think it is forbidden for yeshiva students to serve in the army. And I don't think that Jews should only study Torah and expect society and their wives and families to support them.
I believe that all Jews should be self-supporting, have a job or profession. I also consider it the responsibility of all to serve in the army. There is no mitzvah to "learn" all day and all night. The only thing relating to what we're supposed to do is:
"Six days you shall work, and the seventh day is Shabbat, for the Lord your God." (Deut. 5:13)
I take that very seriously. Other religions exempt and forbid their "holy people" from the mundane of work and military. Judaism is different. Just like many of those other religions demand that their "holy people" be celibate--no sex and no marriage--it's not our way, it's not Jewish.
And by what right does a male who spends his time in a Beit Medrash, study hall, consider himself superior, holier, than a doctor who saves lives, a builder who makes homes for people, or a farmer who grows the food we all need to eat?
Judaism is the religion that combines the holy and the profane. Besides the Kohanim in the Holy Temple, it should be speedily rebuilt in our Days, no one is exempt from the military and work. Serving in the army to defend our Land and our People should be seen as a holy act.
I remember during the Yom Kippur War in 1973, when my husband was working in the Public Relations Department in the Shaare Tzekek Hospital, and because of the emergency situation, suddenly even certain office workers had to be at the hospital on Shabbat and Holiday, when they were normally forbidden. The hospital Rabbi announced that those who must travel and work on those days were doing it as a mitzvah, pikuach nefesh to save lives. And since they were doing a mitzvah, they had to dress particularly well in honor of Shabbat and Holidays. To help them "dress up," someone donated nice ties for the men to wear. And remember that in 1973, it was very rare to see an Israeli man in a tie, even at the dressiest of events.
And yes, I agree that the Israeli Army is not always hospitable to religious requirements. But the only way to improve things is to flood it with strongly religious men. Don't stand on the sidelines.
And now for the reason I think the Supreme Court wants to preserve the exemptions.
- Not only because it really doesn't affect all that many men.
- Not only because they don't want to deal with the demands that more religious men will make on the system
The Tal Law was upheld, because there are many non-religious males who are refusing to serve in the army for all sorts of reasons. And the judges know that if they get stricter about draft for the yeshiva students, their own sons, grandsons, nephews and friends' kids will be forced to be drafted when they don't want to.