The Jewish and Israeli solidarity that we have witnessed in recent weeks has been a source of inspiration during difficult times. Jews around the world have rallied around the world have responded to the call to study and prayer, first on behalf of the three murdered teenagers, and later on behalf of the IDF soldiers who risk life and limb to protect the State of Israel.
It is in this spirit, and in the interest of protecting this sense of unity, that the Rabbinical Council of America – representing over 1000 Orthodox rabbis throughout the United States, Canada, Israel, and beyond – “urges Israel’s political, communal, and religious leaders to deliberate and implement policies pertaining to military and civilian national service and Torah study with the utmost caution, so that serving the State of Israel and, of course, studying Torah, which ought to be points of great pride and unity, do not continue to be sources of strife and division.”
Formally adopted by a direct vote of the RCA membership, the full text of “2014 Resolution: Torah Study and National Service in the State of Israel” states:
WHEREAS Torah study is a cardinal Jewish value and the Jewish spiritual, religious, and cultural expression par excellence; and
WHEREAS Defending the State of Israel, the nationstate of the Jewish people, is a mitzva, a necessity, and a privilege; and
WHEREAS Both Torah study and defense of the State of Israel are indispensable, the latter due to the harsh realities of Israel’s environment, and the former because it constitutes the essence of Jewish life at all times; and
WHEREAS The question of the proper individual and collective balance between Torah study and the defense of the state has developed into a major source of internal Jewish strife in Israel and, more recently, beyond its borders;
Therefore the Rabbinical Council of America, speaking humbly as an association with a mainly Diaspora-based membership:
- Lauds any Jew who devotes years of his or her life to the study of Torah, to the defense of the State of Israel and the Jewish people, and especially those who struggle to accommodate the dual demands of Torah study and national defense; and
- Condemns the use of hateful and derogatory language against fulltime students of the Torah and against defenders of Israel. Such language serves only to reinforce the prevailing rifts within the Jewish people; and
- Applauds and admires efforts to move the IDF away from an unhealthy, integrationist “melting pot” paradigm, toward the fostering of environments that meet a wide variety of individual and collective needs, and without sacrificing the bonds of trust necessary for the effective functioning of any army. Inter alia, these efforts enable the participation of a greater variety of religious communities in the defense of an extremely diverse Jewish population and help to eradicate persistent anxieties, rooted in the harsh historical realities of the Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires, about conscription as an attempt to undermine and eliminate the distinctive identities of minorities; and
- Urges Israel’s political, communal, and religious leaders to deliberate and implement policies pertaining to military and civilian national service and Torah study with the utmost caution, so that serving the State of Israel and, of course, studying Torah, which ought to be points of great pride and unity, do not continue to be sources of strife and division.