Should women serve in the army? In theory, assuming that there was an army that was entirely accomodating to the religious woman’s needs, would a woman be obligated to serve in the army? Ostensibly, this would seem to be a matter of debate between the Rambam and Sefer Ha-Chinukh regarding an obligatory war, which the Rambam elsewhere defines as a war against Amalek, the seven Canaanite nations or to defend Jews. The Chinukh (603) writes that women are not obligated to remember what Amalek did to the Jewish because it is tied to fighting Amalek, which is a task for men and not women. Similarly, he writes (525) that the obligation not to fear an enemy during war is only on men, because they are the ones who do the fighting. Clearly, the Chinukh is of the view that women do not fight in wars, including the obligatory war against Amalek.

Women in the Army

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(Adapted from a post four years ago, in service of a rabbi who seems unaware of the halakhic discussion)

Should women serve in the army? In theory, assuming that there was an army that was entirely accomodating to the religious woman’s needs, would a woman be obligated to serve in the army?

Ostensibly, this would seem to be a matter of debate between the Rambam and Sefer Ha-Chinukh regarding an obligatory war, which the Rambam elsewhere defines as a war against Amalek, the seven Canaanite nations or to defend Jews. The Chinukh (603) writes that women are not obligated to remember what Amalek did to the Jewish people because the command is tied to fighting Amalek, which is a task for men and not women. Similarly, he writes (525) that the obligation not to fear an enemy during war is only on men, because they are the ones who do the fighting. Clearly, the Chinukh is of the view that women do not fight in wars, including the obligatory war against Amalek.

However, the Rambam writes in Sefer Ha-Mitzvos (introduction at the end of shoresh 14) that women do not fight in optional wars. The implication seems to be that they are only exempt from optional wars but they do fight in obligatory wars.

The Minchas Chinukh (525:1, 603:3) argues on the Chinukh based on the Mishnah in Sotah (44b) which states that during a time of mandatory war a bride and groom leave their chupah. If a bride leaves her chupah (wedding canopy), then surely she fights in the war.

Others, however, counter that the Gemara (Nazir 59a) states that a woman may not carry weapons because they are considered “men’s clothes”. Additionally, the Gemara in Kiddushin (2b) states that it is not the “way” of women to wage war. If they were obligated in fighting a war, wouldn’t it be considered their “way” and shouldn’t they be allowed to carry weapons? R. Shlomo Wahrman (She’eiris Yosef vol. 5 no. 38 p. 212) quotes R. Eliezer Silver as saying that whenever the Gemara explains that it is not the “way” for something to be done, it really means that it is prohibited to do so (see there). Therefore, women would be forbidden to fight in an obligatory war.

Regarding the Mishnah in Sotah, that a bride leaves her chupah, many point to the Radbaz (Hilkhos Melakhim 7:4) who explains that Mishnah in two ways: 1) Since the groom has to leave to go to war, there is therefore no chupah left. The bride’s leaving the chupah is so the groom will go fight the war. 2) The bride goes off to war to prepare food and drink for her husband, but not to fight (cf. the glosses of the Rashash, ad loc.).

R. Chanokh Agus (Marcheshes vol. 1 22:6 – link) suggests that women are not obligated to fight in war, per se, but they are obligated to settle the land of Israel. Any war that is necessary to fulfill that commandment is, therefore, also obligatory on them. But they are exempt from other wars, such as that against Amalek. However, most other authorities argue that women are exempt from all wars.

R. Yosef Kafach, in his edition of Sefer Ha-Mitzvos (p. 56 n. 54), argues that even the Rambam agrees that women are not commanded to fight in an obligatory war. He points out that in manuscripts of Rambam’s commentary to the Mishnah (Kiddushin 1:7, see R. Kafach’s edition of it) he writes that women are not obligated to fight the war against Amalek. Clearly, Rambam also holds that women are not commanded to fight in an obligatory war.

Therefore, many have reached the conclusion that women are not obligated to fight in any war. See also R. Eliezer Waldenberg, Hilkhos Medinah vol. 2 3:6 – link; R. Shlomo Goren, Toras Ha-Moadim (1992 edition) pp. 195-198; R. Yosef Kafach, ibid.; R. Shlomo Wahrman, ibid.; R. Eliezer Melamed, Peninei Halakhah, Ha-Am Ve-Ha-Aretz, 4:11 – link; R. Shlomo Min-Hahar, “Shituf Nashim Ba-Milkhamah” in Techumin, vol. 4 – link; R. Avigdor Nebenzahl, “Nashim Be-Milchemes Mitzvah” in Techumin, vol. 5 – link.

One more thing needs to be said. None of the above means to imply that a woman is not allowed to defend herself when and if this is needed. If there is no one else to fight for her, then no one would require her to just sit and let herself be attacked. The only question is when there is an existing army — whether women should be called to the army or just men. And the halakhah seems to be that — even in an ideal religious environment — women should not be fighting in a Jewish army.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

61 comments

  1. Regarding the Mishnah Sotah 8:7, the key phrase is a direct quote from the prophet Joel 2:16 whose meaning is unambiguous: אִסְפוּ-עָם קַדְּשׁוּ קָהָל, קִבְצוּ זְקֵנִים–אִסְפוּ עוֹלָלִים, וְיֹנְקֵי שָׁדָיִם: יֵצֵא חָתָן מֵחֶדְרוֹ, וְכַלָּה מֵחֻפָּתָהּ. I.e. all hands on deck.

  2. Abba's Rantings

    “during a time of mandatory war a bride and groom leave their chupah”

    unrelated to women and the topic at hand, but how come in book of maccabees those building a home, planting a vineyard and getting married are excuse from fighting. wasn’t this a milchemes mitzva?

  3. Moshe Shoshan

    Abba
    ayn meshivin al sefarim chitzonim

  4. how about serving in support functions (which is most of the army)
    KT

  5. Gil, your post concerns obligatory serving much more than voluntary, which is based on much more slender reeds. Regardless, the religious women in Tzahal- almost all women in Tzahal, in fact- aren’t in combat units.

    Abba: Either that part of Torah Shebiketav hadn’t been formulated yet or wasn’t well known, and the author was basing himself on the pasuk?

  6. Shachar Ha'amim

    “And the halakhah seems to be that — even in an ideal religious environment — women should not be fighting in a Jewish army.”

    There is nothing in your post that leads to the halachic conclusion stated in the last clause of your last sentence.
    All you did was show that women possibly are not obligated to fight in a milchemet mitzvah.
    You did not show that women are forbidden to fight. you did not show that a mandatory draft for women is forbidden (or even yeeharog ve’al yaavor as mid-20th century hardeli leadership argued). you did not show any suggestion that women who do offer to serve violate any halacha – such as a violation of “kchol asher yorucha” which was a prohibition recently suggested by a known religious zionist rabbi (in response to a discussion regarding a religious female pilot in the Israeli air corps)
    you did not even show that as a matter of public policy the halacha would sugesst that women not serve in the army

  7. This issue is of great relevance here in Israel. Recent years have seen a growing trend of Dati-Leumi young women joining the army. Not too long ago, such women were viewed as the outliers. Today, in certain DL communities, they are becoming quite mainstream. Many such women are clearly able to make important contributions in the intelligence units and also in the more social/ education units (where their work is more similar to what they might do in Sherut Leumi).

    Many of the contemporary halachik articles on the topic address three classic objections. With regard to (1) kli gever and (2) women’s general “nature” – many conclude that, in the context of milchemet mitzva, such issues are not binding. However, many of the articles that maintain the issur point to the 3rd issue, general problems of tzniut, and note that all poskim continue to rule that the current situation is untenable from a tzniut point of view.

    I note that there are a growing number of midrashot that have hesder-like programs which include a year of tora study (some with an emphasis on army prep) followed by 2 years of serving together with a “garin” (core group) for like-minded women – and with ongoing support by faculty.

    I wonder if anyone can point to articles which support army / these pre-army midrashot – as a “l’chatchila” option (rather than merely providing a support system for women who have already chosen to violate the psak halacha).

    Thank you.

  8. AAF, whenever discussing this issue, I’m reminded of a point a historian once made: Someone had found a series of papal decrees from the middle ages decreeing that Christian women could not work in Jewish households. Aha, he said, that shows that all those stories about gedolim and their non-Jewish maids are bubbe meises.

    Not at all, said the historian. When you see decrees like that, it means that it was actually *very* prevalent- otherwise why would they bother making the decrees? The fact they keep recurring merely means that they were ignored.

    I’m put in mind of that whenever I see Chardal leaders (like R’ Aviner) decrying women in the IDF, and then see the now common sight of women in uniforms with long skirts (and even headcoverings). I was once walking through a charedi neighborhood and passed a woman with two kids, full headcovering, in the uniform of a lieutenant in the homefront command.

    I’ll discuss tzniut in a separate post.

  9. Being in the army and fighting a war are not the same thing; most of any modern army are not combat troops. What the rabbis call “providing food and water”, which is to be done by women in a milchemet mitzvah, is today called logistics and largely done by people in the Army. Not to mention intelligence, communications, training, education, medics, social work.

  10. “and note that all poskim continue to rule that the current situation is untenable from a tzniut point of view.”

    I was discussing this with R’ Rakeffet last week, and thought of what, I humbly claim, is a pretty good point. Not only is increased participation of religious women in the IDF a sign of more equality-mindedness (as he, I’m sure correctly, said), but perhaps that makes it even *better* from a tzniut perspective. More laws protecting women means that the old claim that officers will be able to take advantage of women under their command (the same is claimed for Sherut Leumi by Charedim and even Chardalim) applies much less, with sexual harassment laws and procedures. If the President of the State can go to jail for such things, I doubt some unit commander junior officer is going to risk it. And as R’ Rakeffet said, if it’s mutual, well, it’s pretty clear the Army had nothing to do with it.

  11. By the way, let me be clear that I’m not saying that R’ Rakeffet supports this l’chatchila. (Or opposes it.) But he doesn’t sound like someone who opposes it b’dieved.

  12. Lema’aseh women serving in TZAHL today is a non-issue. The army can get along very well without women, certainly without women in combat units. It is an artificial gender equality issue. The women that I served with in the NACHAL 40 years ago did basic training and were with us in border outposts but their duties did not include any active military duties including simple guard duties. AFAIK this has not changed much. The real situation defines the halachic question. In the Warsaw Ghetto and during milkemet Ha’atzmaut the kallot didn’t stay under the chuppah and they did more than give out water and food.

  13. MOSHE SHOSHAN, NACHUM:

    i anticipated your responses, but wondered if there is something i am missing.

    MOSHE:

    i thought I Mac it is considered a relatively reliable account?

  14. Nachum: Gil, your post concerns obligatory serving much more than voluntary…

    See the paragraph beginning “Others, however”

    Regardless, the religious women in Tzahal- almost all women in Tzahal, in fact- aren’t in combat units

    Let’s be realistic. The issue with Tzahal is tzenius of the most serious kind and even hard-core Religious Zionists like R. Tzvi Yehuda Kook opposed women serving in Tzahal regardless of the halakhic arguments in this post. You may disagree on the metzius in the army but keep in mind that neither you nor I actually served in it. Regardless, I’m not writing about specifically the Israeli army, just the general issue.

    Shachar Ha’amim: There is nothing in your post that leads to the halachic conclusion stated in the last clause of your last sentence.

    See the paragraph beginning “Others, however”

  15. Aside from the larger point, does anyone today think that a modern firearm is “Klei gever”?

    And what is the parameter of “fighting” in an army? Can a woman fly an armed RC predator drone from an office somewhere in the Negev on search and destroy missions? Perhaps much in the way that Hareidim have come to accept women working in IT centers, the Chardal will accept them operating unmanned fighting vehicles.

  16. “Regardless, I’m not writing about specifically the Israeli army, just the general issue.”

    But isn’t the fact that it is Israel (e.g. kibbush ha’aretz) relevant to the halachic discussion? (he asks rhetorically)

  17. IH & MJ: I’m sure that when R. Goren wrote about this, he had already trained as a paratrooper and was aware of the issues of kibush ha-aretz and then-modern methods of battle.

  18. “See the paragraph beginning “Others, however””

    I saw it. The whole point of my response was that that is a weak and tangential part of your whole post, in my opinion.

    “The issue with Tzahal is tzenius of the most serious kind and even hard-core Religious Zionists like R. Tzvi Yehuda Kook opposed women serving in Tzahal regardless of the halakhic arguments in this post.”

    And the way Charedim and their allies refer to women in the IDF can be sickening. I don’t have to repeat the terms here. I fail to see how there’s more of a problem here than, say, a charedi woman working an IT job under a male supervisor, or for that matter any woman in a law firm, accounting firm, etc. Indeed, a non-military context may be worse, once one discards stereotyped (and fantasy) notions of women in uniform.

    “You may disagree on the metzius in the army but keep in mind that neither you nor I actually served in it.”

    Which is why I defer to rabbanim who did.

    “Regardless, I’m not writing about specifically the Israeli army, just the general issue.”

    Actually, as IH pointed out, you are. And, of course, you picked a picture of women in IDF uniform. 🙂

  19. Gil — with no disrespct to Rav Goren, his context was different and the priority/issues of the day were different. If you want to have a discussion of halachic process, you need to do better than that.

  20. Rafael Araujo

    “But isn’t the fact that it is Israel (e.g. kibbush ha’aretz) relevant to the halachic discussion? (he asks rhetorically)”

    Kibbush HaAretz happened in the time of Yehoshua and just after. There is not milchemes mitzvoh any longer, which was applicable upon kenus ha’aretz.

    Reb Gil – with respect to the IDF, I would posit that there is no milchemes mitzvoh today and therefore women cannot serve. However, I would argue that there is a din of hatzalas nefashos, saving the population of Israel from Arab attack and murder. Could it be conceivable that under such a category women would be obligated or could be made to fight? (personally I don’t advocate it but just asking).

  21. IH: The technology has changed. The issue of kibush ha-aretz has not.

    Rafael: Protecting Jews from attack is, according to the Rambam, a milchemes mitzvah.

    Nachum: Even if (some) Charedim use sickeningly over-the-top terminology, it doesn’t mean they don’t have a point. I don’t know what the metzius is and defer to local rabbis.

  22. Shachar Ha'amim

    Shachar Ha’amim: There is nothing in your post that leads to the halachic conclusion stated in the last clause of your last sentence.

    See the paragraph beginning “Others, however”

    as point out, a weak tangetial argument, that at best covers only combat roles.

  23. Rafael: It is generally held that self-defense is a milchemet mitzvah. At least within the borders of Eretz Yisrael, I suppose, which certainly applies today. The Maccabim were fighting a milchemet mitzvah, for example.

  24. Gil: Why not just be dan l’kaf zechut and assume that religious women in the IDF (or women in general) aren’t as loose as some claim?

  25. Rafael- You are absolutely wrong about mitzvat kibbush ha aretz. It was as relevant in the times of the cChashmonaim and Bar Cochba and at least according to RAMBAN it is relevant today as well. Besides even RAMBAM agrees that a war to save Israel from an attacker-oppressor (yad tzar) is milchhemet mitzvah lemehadrin. A situation which certainly holds true today. If there was any real need to have women in the army the tzniyut issues could be dealt with FI all female units. If they can manage to keep NACHAL Charedie soldiers away from women they can manage to keep women soldiers away from men (at least on a small scale). But as I wrote above there is no pressing need to even try.

  26. Nachum: Why not just be dan l’kaf zechut and assume that religious women in the IDF (or women in general) aren’t as loose as some claim?

    I never assumed anything to the contrary. From what I’ve been told, the issue is the environment.

  27. If we really want to be technical, fighting in a war is not the same as serving in an army. There are other options in the army besides being a combat soldier.

  28. As some people above have noted, the real controversy today in Israel is not whether religious women should be drafted (that isn’t even a live question), but whether a young religious woman who wants to may join the army in order to contribute to her country in the same way non-religious women do.

    The reasons given for the supposed halakhic prohibition don’t really convince anyone. The only issue that really concerns anyone is, as someone wrote above, “that all poskim continue to rule that the current situation is untenable from a tzniut point of view.”

    However, it is evident to anyone with a head on her shoulders that if and how one should cope with the social atmosphere in the IDF is a personal and pedagogical question, not a general halakhic one, and that it depends on the who the specific person is and her circumstances. Very few rabbis are brave enough to say this in public, but most realize that it is true. The issue simply isn’t a halakhic one at all.

    Historically, one of the few prominent rabbis willing to go out on a limb for these motivated young woman was Rabbi Chaim Druckman, who would discuss the issue with young women as a social and educational dilemna, and gave his support to those who seriously decided that it was appropriate given their personalities and goals.

    Recently there have been more, such as in the midrashot (which combine Torah study and army service for women) created first and foremost by Rav Shlomoh Riskin.

    On a personal level, I have been working alongside religious female soldiers for about a decade as a teacher in the IDF’s Nativ course. This has been a tremendous zekhut! I can state without hesitation that these young religious women who choose to be drafted for 2 years are the brightest, most talented, most dedicated young woman in the Religious Zionist community today, who as a whole exhibit extraordinary religious sincerity and maturity. Ken Yirbu!

    For those who read Hebrew see more here:
    http://www.kipa.co.il/now/46789.html

  29. I served in the IDF in a non combat capacity and I can assure everyone that thinks otherwise that Tznius is still a major problem. First of all, as opposed to working in a law firm or IT center, you cannot quit the IDF once drafted. The fact that an 18 year old soldier wont make inappropriate advances or comments because a President went to jail is also entirely unconvincing. Now while I respect R Risken and others who have set up this Midrashot, he is far from being seen as a mainstream Morah Dasra of the DL community.

  30. “Now while I respect R Risken and others who have set up this Midrashot, he is far from being seen as a mainstream Morah Dasra of the DL community.”

    Correct. Which in no way means that the mainstream is right or someone who is not seen as mainstream is wrong. Very often the opposite is true (the Rambam would say most of the time :-). Furthermore, there is no such thing as “Mara de-Atra” for the DL community. For such a wide-ranging community the very idea is ludicrous.

    There are all kinds of problems, religious and otherwise, with being in the IDF. That is the nature of the beast. Maturity and preparation are the best way to deal with problems in any environment, and certainly in the IDF. Delegitimization of the choice young women make to join the IDF is not.

  31. Rav Drukman, Rav Aviner and Rav Yaakov Ariel are all respected by a large percentage of the DL community and are do not exclusivley speak to Or Etzion, Ateret Kohanim or Ramat Gan. R Risken is simply not in the same category as very few people outside of Efrat actually care about what he says (sorry but thats just the truth and I have learned in multiple different locations). While you are right that being the majority doesn’t make them right, the Torah commands us “Achrei Rabim Lhatot” and there is zero way to argue that the majority of even DL rabbonim endorse the idea of sherut nashim btzahal.
    Secondly, I remember being on shmira on a shabbat and our shift fell before the main meal so we were allowed to eat early. Before I made Kiddush, I invited the girls who wanted to hear Kiddush to come to our table and about half did (normally during the main meal no one is allowed to eat till someone makes kiddush). I did this because its clear to me that while I feel that army service is not for women, it doesnt mean I should deligitimize THEM. I also dont like the fact that people talk on their cell phone on shabbos in the base, but I have to be mashlim the fact it happens. It doesnt mean I have to legitimize it.

  32. Gil, since you invoked Rav Tzvi Yehudah’s position, I would like to clarify based on what I recall him actually saying and what was done by some of the girls from families influenced by him.

    Rav Tzvi Yehudah held that the modern State of Israel’s wars and daily security needs all qualify as milhemet mitzvah without a doubt. He also held that women are therefore obligated to serve, as per the pshat of the mishnah and rishonim. Women serving meant support roles, not combat roles. Because the current (this was the 70s) conditions did not allow for a woman to serve in Tzahal in an acceptable manner (generally tzniut issues), they were encouraged to do Sherut Leumi as an option approved by the authorities. To summarize, as I seem to recall his position was that women should serve; but that Sherut Leumi was a better option given current circumstances.

    Some of the girls from the neighborhood and the yeshiva’s families who really wanted to go to Tzahal had the option of stipulating they would serve only in certain frameworks. I recall a couple of the neighborhood girls serving as morot hayalot for that reason. I think those opportunities were somewhat limited. Everyone I knew was very proud of these girls. This was in the late 70s and 80s. Rav Drukman was often the person that these families turned to when seeking guidance and help.

    Our pekida plugatit in basic training in the Nahal was a Bnei Akiva girl, and her manner was a real kiddush Hashem. When she showed up in a Shabbat dress for davening, it was a real morale booster and stabilizer.

    David Tzohar: what mahzor of the Nahal were you?

  33. Yes, I believe R. Tzvi Yehuda held like the Minchas Chinukh. It’s in one of R. Aviner’s sefarim. However, he followed the Chief Rabbinate which forbade women’s army service.

    Found it: http://www.ravaviner.com/2010/12/regarding-army-service-for-women.html

  34. From a halachic process perspective, the key sentence being: “Therefore, later on Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda publicized his view opposing military service for girls, in accordance with Radbaz, not because that is the essence of the law, but as a fence around modesty.”

  35. Which brings us back to Seth (Avi) Kadish on December 8, 2011 at 1:11 pm

  36. I disagree on both. The key is that he held in principle like the Minchas Chinukh (that women are obligated). That is all we are discussing.

    Someone actually considering practical application should go to a qualified posek and not render important halakhic decisions on their own.

  37. “Gil: Why not just be dan l’kaf zechut and assume that religious women in the IDF (or women in general) aren’t as loose as some claim?”

    I can’t speak for Gil but the reason I can’t just “be dan l’kaf zechut” is because I know for a fact that unfortunately the situation in the IDF with women in general is far worse than you allow for. You can paint the Charedim as monsters if you wish, but that doesn’t obscure the fact that many national religious folks wouldn’t let their daughters near the IDF because they recognize the dnagers involved. Of course, many of the religious women who do enlist are upstanding and above reproach, but that doesn’t minimize the fact that they’re only a percentage of the women in the IDF and the others are not nearly as careful.
    If it weren’t so inappropriate, I’d write over the conversation I overheard by a group of IDF’s soldiers on the bus a number of years ago. Suffice it to say, it was all about who had snagged whom and their tales were lurid and disgraceful. The worst part of it was their total lack of shame which leads one to believe that they’re not in the minority. While Charedim are the most vociferously against drafting women, there are enough NR’s and even totally secular people against it too, to know that this is not about Charedim.

  38. “That is all we are discussing.”

    Gil – I’ve now lost you. This post appears to have been a kneejerk response to R. Yuter’s Morethoxy post as I, perhaps mistakenly, understood from your snarky introductory comment: “(Adapted from a post four years ago, in service of a rabbi who seems unaware of the halakhic discussion)”.

    Could you succinctly summarize the point you were trying to make, now that you have read the (mostly critical) comments regarding your analysis?

  39. I fail to understand the process that R’ Gil uses to draw his conclusion about a supposed general exclusion of women in war. Merely citing a handful of poskim who take such a position does not, ipso facto, make it the accepted halacha – particularly when the only Rishonim cited are the Rambam and the Chinuch. The evidence from the talmud and Rambam appears to support the idea that women are obligated to participate in milchemet chova. The latter is defined as a war to defend the country from an invader or threatened invader. Such a war, where there may not be a sufficient force of men under arms, creates a greater obligation, it seems to me, than a milchemet mitzvah since pikuach nefesh overrides nearly all mitzvot. There would have been sufficient manpower available for milchemet Amalek so that women did not need not participate in an arena where they are not evenly matched, i.e., hand-to-hand combat. Nor should there be any need to mention that a woman can take up arms if her life is being threatened. That should be obvious.

    Moreover, as has been noted, there are more non-combat roles in the military than combat. Women who serve in the Israeli military in a non-combat role, free up more men for combat – a matter than can be vitally important when you’re surrounded by more numerous forces. The question of the possible untoward influence in the military is a question that cuts across gender and for which solutions have been found. Even tzniyut issues can be surmounted unless you take the extreme position that a woman’s figure must not be visible under her clothing. In sum, this issue appears to be one of ideology more than halacha.

  40. “First of all, as opposed to working in a law firm or IT center, you cannot quit the IDF once drafted.”

    Is there? You don’t quit jobs easily, especially if you’re a charedi mother of eight who is the sole breadwinner in your family in a bad economy. Face facts, if you’re going to make a to-do about soldiers, you’d better be prepared to make a to-do about women outside the house, period. (That includes work, sherut leumi, seminary, high school, elementary school, shopping…)

    “The fact that an 18 year old soldier wont make inappropriate advances or comments because a President went to jail is also entirely unconvincing.”

    18 year olds will be 18 years olds wherever they are. I’m talking about commanding officers, which is usually held up as the main concern.

  41. IH: The point is simple — there is more than one Talmudic text and many post-Talmudic texts on the subject.

    Y. Aharon: The rulings of two chief rabbis of Israel (one of whom was also chief rabbi of the IDF) as well as other poskim are insufficient for you? Can you cite poskim who disagree?

  42. Mark, I never mentioned (or thought of) Charedim, not to mention never called them “monsters.” I have no idea what you mean by that.

    As to the conversation you overheard, I daresay that any group of kids that age anywhere in the world might have a conversation like that. In any event, we’re not talking about secular women, who join Tzahal regardless.

  43. Nachum,

    from your comment Nachum on December 8, 2011 at 8:43 am

    “And the way Charedim and their allies refer to women in the IDF can be sickening. I don’t have to repeat the terms here.”

    Methinks you did mention Charedim nor did I say you “called” them monsters. I said you painted them as such and I think there’s a strong argument to be made for that in your statement above.

    That conversation was made by soldiers in the IDF about their flings with female soldiers in the IDF so to pretend that there’s not a blatant lack of tzinus in the IDF is ridiculous. It’s a huge problem and one that isn’t going away because human nature dictates that this is how people will act in those circumstances and it’s worlds apart from a mother of 8 working in an IT job [but there are those in the Charedi world who feel as you do that there’s danger in that too and therefore avoid it. Of course they get pilloried for that too.] where this sort of discussion, let alone behavior, is called abuse and lands one in jail.

  44. “That conversation was made by soldiers in the IDF about their flings with female soldiers in the IDF so to pretend that there’s not a blatant lack of tzinus in the IDF is ridiculous.”

    To pretend that this is not true outside of the IDF is equally ridiculous. In any case, I am hopeful your position is not based on one overheard conversation (as many of us have heard morally abominable positions among “Orthodox” 18 year olds as well).

  45. I don’t pretend that it doesn’t happen elsewhere. That’s why many Charedim and even non-Charedim won’t send their children to mixed gender colleges, camps etc. The point is that it happens in the IDF with abandon and that’s why they speak of it as such.

    I’ve heard all sorts of things come out of the mouths of 18-year-old Orthodox youth, but never about whom they slept with or anything close.

    Regardless, my position is not based on “one conversation.” I’ve actually been active in Netzach Yehudah which I strongly encourage and support it and have spend much time with some of the soldiers in NY and heard all about the environment in the IDF. Thankfully NY is a positive environment for the most part and the IDF deserves plenty of credit for that, but it’s a different ballgame in many other battalions and divisions.

  46. The point is simple — there is more than one Talmudic text and many post-Talmudic texts on the subject.

    Gil — if that’s your point in this post, then you need to take a cold hard look in the mirror before being snarky. The same point can be said about almost every issue on which you polemicize: e.g. giyur, the role of women, liturgical practice, etc.

    At the end of the day, you have not proven R. Alan Yuter’s statement on the topic to be false (or even misleading):

    Although some “traditionalist” rabbis do not allow women to serve in the Israeli armed services, bSota 44b requires and does not disallow the drafting of women into the Jewish army for a defensive war—a law that enjoys greater canonical documented precedent than the gender segregation in the synagogue.

    To be clear, I think this is a good post and a good discussion; but, it is marred by an uncharitable (and incorrect, it seems) insult against a fellow Orthodox Rabbi. Be a mensch and delete it.

  47. Evidently we read different posts.

  48. R’ Gil, I did state that I believed the issue to be more ideological than halachic. There is no requirement for me to accept the policy views of some rabbis whatever their position in society. If they have a reasoned teshuva with sources that appears convincing, that’s one thing. If they merely proclaim, “yehoreg v’al ya’avor”, that may merely indicate that they don’t have a sound halachic basis for their view and feel the need to buttress it with exaggerated expressions.

  49. Nachum,
    ” Face facts, if you’re going to make a to-do about soldiers, you’d better be prepared to make a to-do about women outside the house, period. (That includes work, sherut leumi, seminary, high school, elementary school, shopping…)”. There is clearly a chiluk between the 2. 1st, Ive never heard anyone having to do 11/3 in an IT center. Secondly, even if you are talking about someone doing yomiot, there is no caparing being in Tzahal, which is a “total culture” to working in a job.

    “18 year olds will be 18 years olds wherever they are. I’m talking about commanding officers, which is usually held up as the main concern.” Are you telling me that you are not worried that a commanding officers who get to see their house every other Shabbat wouldn’t make advances on a chayelet who he sees 13+ hours a day? Maybe he will even threaten her with Shabbat if she doesn’t comply. Check out this article which states among other things one in SEVEN chayalot will be victims of sexual harrassment in the army! Do you think an employer who wants to stay in business would allow that to happen? http://www.politic.co.il/משפט/דעות/32920-מאות-מקורבנות-הטרדה-מינית-בצה-ל-זכאיות-לקצבת-נכות.html

  50. Where is Rav Aviner on all this?

  51. Rav Aviner thinks women are obligated to serve but is against them serving currently because of tzenius considerations: http://www.ravaviner.com/2010/12/regarding-army-service-for-women.html

  52. If we solve the Tzius issue, Giyus Banos is okay? (I’m not asking to be provocative-I love R Aviner- but this scares me.)

  53. “Giyus Banos” is a slogan, not an argument.

  54. Shachar Ha'amim

    While I agree with nearly all of what Seth Kadish wrote I do have to take objection with the last part of this sentence – “As some people above have noted, the real controversy today in Israel is not whether religious women should be drafted (that isn’t even a live question), but whether a young religious woman who wants to may join the army in order to contribute to her country in the same way non-religious women do”

    I don’t think that what is motivating these women is “to be like non-religious women”. If that is the source of the motivation, then Rav TZ Kook’s fence should be put up higher. I would totally support my daughters should they want to serve in the IDF – but NOT if there reason for doing so is because of “hitrapsut” to the secular Israeli norm. I would not want my daughter to be some sort of sycophantic insecure religious woman. Rather, I would encourage her to serve her country as a Jew in the most meanigful way possible for her and try to serve in an area that is needed. If that means doing service in the IDF, great. If that means some form of national service, also great.

  55. Hi “Shachar Ha’amim,” the phrase that bothers you comes from a larger context which was perhaps unclear.

    You need to begin with the men: Hesder soldiers serve only 16 months in the IDF (as opposed to 3 full years for other men). Some serve even less, like in what is colloquially called “Hesder Merkaz” where they only serve 9 months. There is even an old joke about this as follows: The average Israeli man serves 3 years in the IDF and can’t stop talking about it afterwards for 9 months. Whereas the Merkaz student serves for 9 months and can’t stop talking about if afterwards for 30 years… 🙂

    Because of this disparity in taking on the public burden, where even Hesder students serve far less than others, there has been a movement in recent years called “shiluv,” which is a new arrangement that includes a full 3 years for yeshivah students in Hesder.

    The people in favor of “shiluv” are obviously very idealistic ones, who don’t want to shoulder any less of the burden than others do. Some of them also see it as demeaning to Torah study for such study to be used to justify shortening army service.

    I personally lean towards Rav Lichtenstein’s position, namely that frameworks are needed that balance different kinds of contributions and needs in different ways (thus justifying Hesder). Therefore it is important to have “shiluv” and to have “hesder” and also to have the pre-military mekhinot (after which religious soldiers serve 3 full years). Once a legitimate framework is set up, I think it is up to the individual to decide where he should serve in terms of how he best does avodat Hashem.

    In terms of the women, exactly the same thing happened as for the men. So what I meant earlier is that there are lots of young women who want to bear the same burden as secular women do (i.e. 2 years in the army). They see it not as a matter of mimicking but of basic fairness. I respect that, and think they should be respected for it and not have their choice delegitimized (as it often is in DL circles). But I also think other forms of contribution are equally valid (e.g. sherut leumi), and that the choice should be left up to the individual.

  56. Shachar Ha'amim

    Seth – I understood the context well. I am well rooted in Israel and am familiar with the framweorks.

    I don’t think we disagree. I perhaps will be more dismissive of a sycophantic (what I described as “hitrapsut) attitude vis-a-vis the relationship of religious people to the rest of Israeli society. Let’s be honest the inductment rate – even amongst secular Israelis only – is not 100%. It is not even close. When counting rserve duty, it is very difficult to suggest that those who attend Hesder shoulder less of the burden. In fact they probably shoulder more of the overall burden rather than less.

    Now that you outlined your view in more detail – I’m actually quite surprised that you added that last bit to the sentence.

  57. Hi, I agree with everything you write.

    I guess I added the last bit because I respect the argument, and think it deserves to be respected when people make it, even if I personally don’t think it is the only argument or captures the whole picture.

    I also think the fact that so many idealistic young people even consider this point, regardless of what they ultimately decide, is something that reflects very well on the Religious Zionist community. We should be proud of this.

    In any case, while a young person can certainly ask for advise from a parent or a rabbi or anyone else regarding this argument and many others, it is ultimately not a halakhic issue. You ultimately need to decide it yourself and be honest towards God.

  58. Nachum- Giyus Banos is an issue which has been ruled on quite severely by the Chazon Ish, R Herzog and others. (It’s a three word pesak, if I rememember correctly.) While I shudder at the thought of going against the word of torah luminaries like these, I can’t expect everyone else to feel the same way and probably should have kept my mouth shut instead of reacting out of emotion. Oops.

  59. can women carry pink guns like these, made for women
    http://www.thegunsource.com/category/2580_Pink_Pistols.aspx?w=%2BCJWDALnoPg%3D

    are guns and going to war not like other things that depend on cultural gender norms (e.g. men looking in the mirror). If not, why not?

  60. Shachar Ha'amim

    “are guns and going to war not like other things that depend on cultural gender norms (e.g. men looking in the mirror). If not, why not?”

    I believe that they are – and that the sugya regarding carrying weapons on Shabbat only proves that it is a culturual norms.
    While there are certainly many poskim who have ruled that women wearing slacks are OBJECTIVELY wearing mens clothing. I don’t think that this is nearly the consensus view, and that many (if not most) objections to women wearing slacks revolve around the argument that slacks are OBJECTIVELY not tzenua on a woman. (This too can be argued – just compare the tzniut of full length loose slacks on a woman to the tight, barely at the knees shapely form fitting skirts woen by most of flatbush, lawrence, and monsey on an average shabbat day – and weekday for that matter)
    So it’s clear that it’s a cultural geneder norm – that like slacks – can change – and has changed.
    and yes, there are women in Israel who “privately” pack a pistol – i.e. they have a gun permit and carry a gun

  61. “While there are certainly many poskim who have ruled that women wearing slacks are OBJECTIVELY wearing mens clothing.”

    I don’t remember there being many. definitely a minority viewpoint.

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