Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Perqs for Torah study in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: Do Torah Scholars Have the Right Not To Be Drafted by the Government? In rabbinic Judaism, learning replaces noble birth as a source of power and status—including the power to avoid state responsibility.
One of the most contentious issues in Israeli politics is the exemption of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students from army service. The exemption dates back to the beginning of the state, when only a few hundred men were affected; today, as many as 50,000 choose to study Torah rather than serve in the IDF. A law was passed to limit this practice in 2014, but it was rolled back earlier this year as part of a deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the ultra-Orthodox parties in the Knesset. To secular Israelis, the exemption is patently unfair, as well as an economic burden on the state. To the haredim themselves, on the other hand, the idea of tearing students away from Torah study represents on attack on their core values and on Judaism itself.

One of the compelling things about reading Daf Yomi is that, in the middle of seemingly arcane debates about, say, planting onions or grafting vines, you can suddenly come across a passage that directly addresses today’s headlines. That is what happened this week with the question of army exemptions; and it turns out that, unsurprisingly perhaps, the haredim have clear Talmudic support for their position. ...
Incidentally, the stories about R. Akiva and his wife noted earlier today also illustrate the special status of Torah study in the Talmud. Whether this high status was a social reality or a social aspiration in the time of the Talmud is an interesting question.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links.