by Rabbi Shemuel Akhamzadeh
רַק֩ חֲזַ֨ק וֶֽאֱמַ֜ץ מְאֹ֗ד לִשְׁמֹ֤ר לַעֲשׂוֹת֙ כְּכָל־הַתּוֹרָ֗ה… Joshua 1.7
The flip-floping of the Israeli Justice system in regards to conscripting yeshiva students to the army has become a seasonal occurrence. This point is rightfully a very sensitive issue for all Jews – religious or secular, and even for Jews who have never been privileged to live in Israel – due to it’s natural connection to the security of the state and its citizens on one side and the continuity of Torah study for thousands of young men on the other.
This conflict of opinions has been around since the beginning of the state. In 1967 a meeting was held by the Israeli government ministers to discuss this exact point. Harav Yehezkel Abramsky (1886-1967) a prominent Orthodox rabbi and scholar was invited to this meeting to present the religious view of the matter. During the meeting, one of the ministers asked R. Abramsky whether the defense of the state should override ( defense of) learning of Torah. In response, the Rav quoted with two pasukim from Tanach ( Haftarah of Simchat Torah / Vzot Haberacha)
In First Chapter of Sefer Yehoshua in Pasuk 6, he is commanded to be strong to capture the land. חֲזַ֖ק וֶאֱמָ֑ץ כִּ֣י אַתָּ֗ה תַּנְחִיל֙ אֶת־הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה אֶת־הָאָ֕רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־נִשְׁבַּ֥עְתִּי לַאֲבוֹתָ֖ם לָתֵ֥ת לָהֶֽם׃
“Be strong and resolute, for you shall apportion to this people the land that I swore to their fathers to assign to them.”
In the next two Pasukim (7&8) he is commanded the importance of preserving Torah learning.
רַק֩ חֲזַ֨ק וֶֽאֱמַ֜ץ מְאֹ֗ד לִשְׁמֹ֤ר לַעֲשׂוֹת֙ כְּכָל־הַתּוֹרָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֤ר צִוְּךָ֙ מֹשֶׁ֣ה עַבְדִּ֔י אַל־תָּס֥וּר מִמֶּ֖נּוּ יָמִ֣ין וּשְׂמֹ֑אול לְמַ֣עַן תַּשְׂכִּ֔יל בְּכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר תֵּלֵֽךְ׃
7 But you must be very strong and resolute to observe faithfully all the teaching that My servant Moses enjoined upon you….”
לֹֽא־יָמ֡וּשׁ סֵפֶר֩ הַתּוֹרָ֨ה הַזֶּ֜ה מִפִּ֗יךָ וְהָגִ֤יתָ בּוֹ֙ יוֹמָ֣ם וָלַ֔יְלָה לְמַ֙עַן֙ תִּשְׁמֹ֣ר לַעֲשׂ֔וֹת כְּכָל־הַכָּת֖וּב בּ֑וֹ כִּי־אָ֛ז תַּצְלִ֥יחַ אֶת־דְּרָכֶ֖ךָ וְאָ֥ז תַּשְׂכִּֽיל׃
8 Let not this Book of the Teaching cease from your lips, but recite it day and night, so that you may observe faithfully all that is written in it. Only then will you prosper…”
As it is clear in regards to the land, Yehushua is commanded to be strong. But in regards to Torah, he is commanded to be very strong. A very clear distinction. The words of the Rav bears result and the subject was put to rest for many years.