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About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor 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 currently is serving his third term on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and also serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazineand the Board of OU Press. He has published four 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.

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  1. Interestingly, halakha itself requires drafting women in a milkhemet mitzva (as the State of Israel has been fighting from day one). But halakha…well.

    This contretemps reminds me of the historian’s adage that if you see a religious decree- say, a medieval Pope forbidding Christian women from being maids in Jewish homes- you can be sure that, to the contrary, the practice was very widespread. Anyone in Israel can see that religious female enlistment in the IDF is way, way up simply from seeing the number of soldiers in skirts- and many religious women in the IDF wear pants. So there’s that.

    Of course, no one’s calling for drafting religious women.

    • Where does halakhah state that women must fight in a milchemes mitzvah? Rav Kafach, Rav Goren, the Tzitz Eliezer and more reach the opposite conclusion: https://www.torahmusings.com/2011/12/women-in-the-army/

      • Sotah 44b includes even a bride during sheva berakhos. As you note, the Radbaz says this is to be a “jobnik”, not a fighting soldier, but it’s still a draft to the war effort. And your analysis of the Rambam based on mechiyas Amaleiq doesn’t address R’ Yehudah’s distinction between a milkhemes mitzvah and a milkhemes chovah. A war for survival is not the same thing as wars that are commanded.

        On the other hand, those of us sitting in the US arguing about drafting women need to be honest enough to admit that if the war really needs all those hands, men from the diaspora carry priority over women from Israel.

        • As you note, the Radbaz says this is to be a “jobnik”, not a fighting soldier, but it’s still a draft to the war effort

          Yes, and Sherut Leumi fulfills that.

          I’m not sure what you mean about R. Yehudah. Amalek is a milchemes mitzvah.

  2. I understand Rav Ariel as saying that women may enlist for National Service, but may not enlist for the regular Army, as that would put them in coercive situations that they cannot walk away from.

    It seems to me that he is saying that they may neither be drafted into the regualr Army, nor may they enlist into it.

  3. I would guess that there are more than enough noncombat positions to handle the number of female draftees. IMHO the fighting question is only an issue once one determines that women do have responsibilities to support the war effort.

    • I think the question is whether the modern equivalent to the gemara’s description includes she’eirut le’umi or only is really satisfied by working for the military as a non-combatant. How removed from the war effort is valid?

      • I would think that is up to the properly designated authorities (a la r schachter’s analysis of democracy as shutfim (large partnership)

  4. MiMedinat HaYam

    Not that I’ll agree or disagree regarding milchemet mitzvah, but perhaps families sending their daughters to tzahal see this as a good career move. (Just like for their sons.)

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