Army Talk

I’ve been asked by someone to explain why an American Jew should feel obligated to serve in the Israeli army, and I have discovered that it’s a real challenge to put something that has always been so clear in my heart into words, let alone written words. This is my attempt, or at least my first attempt, and I decided to answer in a blog.

Any obligation here can be divided into two. You have a religious obligation (in our case, a halachik one) and you have a moral obligation.

The halachik version is unfortunately the less convincing one, but that’s just the way halacha works. For every Rabbi who says it’s an obligation, there’s another who says it’s optional, and another who says it’s forbidden (In deference to the fact that I’m writing in English, I’m trying as hard as I can to avoid overly Jewish words, like assur and mutar. Some, however, like halachik, simply cannot be replaced.)

My argument of choice would be milchemet mitzvah. The Jewish nation, Israel, is under attack, we have to defend it. According to halacha, all who are able must fight. This includes Jews living in, and outside of Israel. The argument doesn’t really have to be more complicated than that.

Now, if you have some chareidi ultra-orthodox who gets smart with you and says that he’s participating in the fight by learning in yeshiva, and in the merit of his Torah study, God will help Israel, you can tell him two things.

First, where is this yeshiva that tells its boys to learn and pray in real partnership with the army? It seems to me that the only yeshivot that believe this are hesder ones, the ones who actually send boys off to the army to fight, in between three years of study.

The second thing that obligates him is Torah v’hishtalut (the concept that prayer is only effective when accompanied by physical effort). We see that Yaakov saw hishtadlut as being a real thing. He prepared to meet Esau in three ways; negotiations, Torah study/prayer, and actual military arrangements. He did not negotiate, pray, and pray.

On to the moral argument.

You can divide Jews into two groups (approximately, of course). Those who have made aliya (included in this group would be those who were born in Israel and didn’t leave) plus those who plan on making aliya; and those who don’t live in Israel and don’t plan on making aliya.

I don’t want to get into the whole making aliya vs not making aliya argument here. It’s long; longer than this, and it’s for another blog. If you don’t plan on making aliya, I’m not going to convince you to serve in the army (though there are plenty from this group who do, interestingly enough)

The simple moral argument is that when people are risking their lives for you; you have to return the same to them. Soldiers are part of a national collective; citizens have the ability to partake in commerce, benefit from entertainment, and otherwise live normal lives because the army is there to protect them. The cost of having an army is serving in one. And living in Israel without paying that price is theft, on a mortal scale.

These arguments (especially the halachik ones) are not comprehensive. They have all been said before, and the have all been rebutted. Their rebuttals have also been rebutted. This is only meant to be a general overview of the argument. Also, I’m not a Rabbi, so take the halachik stuff with the necessary grain of salt.

Chinese Food!

Well, today certainly was an exciting day.

Actually, nothing at all happened. Which I’m used to already. That’s the problem with this blog, I think. I feel as though the most exciting parts of my life are over (which is kind of sad, considering I’m only 23). In the past five years, after escaping from an ultra-orthodox totalitarian high school, I spent two years in Kerem B’Yavneh, one year in Yeshiva University, (still boring, I know, but it gets better) a year working on an ambulance in Kfar Saba and Jerusalem, a year in the Israeli army (the best year of my life, the year I feel will draw the before-after axis of my entire life) and three months interning at the Jerusalem Post (if it explodes, it leads). And now I’m here. Bar Ilan. I’ve been learning political science and communications, but this week I’m going to drop communications for English literature, and sign up for additional courses in the yechida program for journalism, which is more like what I thought communications was going to be like (but it’s not. communications in Bar Ilan is more like communication theory, with very little practical value, at least for the first semester, and I don’t see it improving. also, it’s harder to manage in Hebrew than poli sci is. journalism should be more practical, and easier to manage language-wise. I hope).

The point is (and I do have a point), I feel like this is the most boring stage of my life. I need to get out and DO something. But what? Start a blog? I may have to start making things up. See if you can call me on anything.

I’m listening to internet radio. The guy without the dreadlocks is playing “where are we runnin now?”

In other news, thank you for the comments, it’s nice to get some feedback. It’s annoying if you sign it anonymously, as soon as I figure out how to take that capability off I will. At least pick an anonymous moniker, and stick with it, so we can keep track of what you write. As it stands now, I had two anonymous comments, from deenie and rutgers, and two signed comments, from david and michelle.

I broke my diet today. It lasted a full 3 days, not including me cheating with chinese food yesterday. I actually only broke it with some pasta that Feivel made, which is probably less bad than a whole cardboard box full of sesame chicken, but in my heart I felt like it was more over with every noodle I ate, while the Chinese food felt like more of a momentary lapse.

Why does Chinese food come in those funky little cardboard boxes (you know, with the wire hangar holder things?). It’s not enough we have to eat it with little sticks, but we have to reduce ourselves to eating from poorly made, dubiously waterproof origami?

BY THE WAY, Feivel put out a few pieces of pre-peeled orange on a plate on the the table when we were eating the pasta. Just thought I’d mention it. He’s obviously not reading my blog.

I’d like to start writing serious political commentary, but I’m having too much fun with oranges and chinese food (Thomas Freidman can wait). The plan is to generate ad revenue by writing criticism on popular op-ed columns, and drive traffic to my site by posting comments on their sites, with my blog site listed. It’s a long shot, but lets see if I can make a living off of this. So when I get ads here, make sure to click, and click often. And post comments!

Oranges of Wrath

This is my first blog. I wonder how many blogs start with that first sentence? (I wonder how many blogs start with those TWO sentences? haha, i’ve one-upped convention.)

What do people write about in blogs? I guess I’ll start with my immediate surroundings. I’ve got The Doors playing on winamp. “Hello, I love you.” My room’s a mess. I’m eating an orange in an effort to be healthy. Not that I think I’ll ever actually cut junk food out of my life, but I like to eat when I’m bored (could be a dangerous habit in the future) and when I’m just bored-eating it doesn’t really matter what I’m eating. And oranges just taste so damn good.

Oranges are seriously the perfect fruit, but only if you eat them right. The right way to eat an orange is first to peel it yourself, with your fingernails. Don’t use a knife, and never accept a pre-peeled orange (hey man, I just peeled an orange, you want it?); this is like accepting pre-chewed food. Peeling the orange yourself increases your anticipation, and ultimately enhances your enjoyment. Don’t pretend you don’t know exactly what I’m talking about.

Second, (Second? Where was first? Look carefully at the second sentence of that last paragraph. It’s wedged between two prepositional phrases, but it’s there.) You divide it along its natural partitions. There are two schools of thought on this one. You can separate each one first, and then eat them, one after the other. Or you can do like I usually do, and pull the pieces off one by one. What you may NOT do is cut up the orange into quarters (or, god forbid, eighths). I know this was fun when we were kids, you get to bite in and just suck out the juice, and then you get to play with the wedges and pretend you’re mike Tyson with a bright orange mouthpiece (was I alone in this one?), but sooner or later, playtime gets rough and somebody loses an ear. That’s what happens when you cut an orange not along it’s god given natural partitions.

So I guess that’s it for today’s blog. I don’t feel as though I’ve made anybody’s life more meaningful, but it felt good to get all that crap about oranges off my chest.