Monday, May 24, 2010

Saifa v'Safra and Nachal Chareidi

The gemara in Avoda Zara (17b) talks about Rabi Elazar ben Parta who was captured by the Romans along with Rabi Chanina ben Tradyon. The Romans accused him of being both a thief and a scholar. (The gemara implies that he ran a Gemach - a free loan fund - and as such, the Romans suspected monetary mischief). As his defense Rabi Elazar ben Parta exclaimed a cryptic statement:  
 
אי סייפא לא ספרא ואי ספרא לא סייפא


If one engages in the profession of the sword סייפא (i.e., thievery), one cannot engage in the profession of the book ספרא and if one engages in the profession of the book, he cannot engage in the profession of the sword.


This is the simple explanation of Rabi Elazar's statement (it got him off, by the way!). But some commentators (notably the Sefer HaAruch in the entry for סייף ) maintain that the Romans were supposed to understand it one way and we are supposed to understand it another way:


If there is a sword אי סייפא, it means we have let go of the "book" לא ספרא, but if we adhere to the book, there will be no need for the sword.


The Sefer HaAruch suggests that this is meant by the pasukim in Yeshaya 1:19-20 that we read on Shabbos Chazon:

אִם תֹּאבוּ וּשְׁמַעְתֶּם טוּב הָאָרֶץ תֹּאכֵלוּ: וְאִם-תְּמָאֲנוּ וּמְרִיתֶם חֶרֶב תְּאֻכְּלוּ כִּי פִּי ה' דבר:


If you want and you listen, the best of the land you will devour. ספרא
If you refuse and you rebel, by the sword you will be devoured, for the word of Hashem has spoken. סייפא


Well, last week was the swearing in ceremony (Tekes Hashba'ah) for the March, 2010 recruits of the Netzach Yehuda troop in the Kfir betallion (Nachal Haredi). Of course, this featured my Yaakov.

As one of the Rabanim of the betallion (Harav Yoel Schwartz) spoke out, the Nachal Chareidi plays the game both ways and makes sure to equip the men with both the סייפא (M-16) and the ספרא a Koren Tanach. The highlight of the ceremony is when the men are issued the סייפא and the ספרא .

The ceremony for Netzach Yehuda takes place in the Ammunition Hill National Park (we reserve the Kotel for סידרא - davening).

We went out there with the gantza mishpacha (minus two boys who are in full time ספרא ) and beheld the ceremony. I thought it was very inspiring and that everybody should see a Nachal Haredi Tekes Hashba'ah whether or not they know any of the soldiers. It was also a bit amusing because a lot of things went wrong and there were many crossed signals. Yaakov told me that they only rehearsed the ceremony twice and that it wasn't adequate. Understatement.

The enclosed video of the סייפא and the ספרא ceremony was taken by my brother. Yaakov is the one in the center of the threesome (who looks the most serious). His formation fell apart on the retreat march because the front guy (the one to the left) started the forward march on the wrong signal. Then the other two guys had to recover and catch up.

Looks like they could use a little more discipline!

(If you have trouble viewing the embedded video, click HERE for download.)


video

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do you realize the contradiction in this post?

First you bring the ספר הערוך that says "If you want and you listen, the best of the land you will devour. ספרא
If you refuse and you rebel, by the sword you will be devoured, for the word of Hashem has spoken. סייפא "
Basically saying that ספרא and סייפא are the extreme opposites.

Then you say:
"As one of the Rabanim of the betallion (Harav Yoel Schwartz) spoke out, the Nachal Chareidi plays the game both ways and makes sure to equip the men with both the סייפא (M-16) and the ספרא a Koren Tanach. The highlight of the ceremony is when the men are issued the סייפא and the ספרא ."

Why? These two are incompatible! (As is evident from there incoherent marching as well;)

Y. Ben-David said...

Anonymous-
Why are the two incompatable? Wasn't David HaMelech both a scholar and a warrior? Didn't Avrhaham Avinu defeat the "4 kings" in battle?

Anonymous said...

the contradiction exists only if you think that the two elements are contradictory -- that is, if you think that learning and doing mitzvot means you will never have to fight. hashem offers no such guarantee, only that fighting will be successful. (what do you think yehoshua was using against amalek? do you think he was "throwing the book at them"?) laws regarding proper behavior in battle refer to "milhemet mitzvah," do they not?

Anonymous said...

"Why are the two incompatable?"

1) Because the posuk Yechezkel quoted says so.
2) When Yitzchok Avinu blessed Yakov Avinu, the only thing he had left for Eisav was the Sword.
3) Dovid Hamelech was not allowed to build the Beis Hamikdash because of the blood spilled by his sword. Additionally, no steel was used for cutting in the construction of the Beis Hamikdosh because of the posuk in Yisro 'Ki Charbecho Heinafto Aleyho'.
But even Dovid Hamelech didn't consider these two compatible. When he went to war he went by the Urim v'Tumim and most times carried along the Aron Hakodesh. These is not your typical 'seifo' or M16 we're talking about.
4) According to Chazal, Avrohom Avinu defeated the 4 kings 'b'derech nes' (according to some it was only Himself and Eliezer against 4 armies) where the dirt he threw was turned into darts and projectiles.
5) Yakov Avinu says in Parshat Vayechi, [Sh'chem] which I conquered ... with my sword and my bow 'n arrow. Targum Unkelos interprets this to mean 'with my prayers and requests'.
6) Last but not least in this blog's flagship parsha, Parshat Bechukotei, one of the Brachot is 'Im Bechutei Telechu...and a sword will not pass through your land'. Why? because the sword is a Kloloh, a curse, and because of the (Ameilus in)Torah which is the antidote, we shall merit protection from the sword!

Anonymous said...

"laws regarding proper behavior in battle refer to "milhemet mitzvah," do they not?"

No.

See Rambam Shoftim, Hilchot Melochim Umilchamot 5:1.

Milchemet Mitzvah refers to a war against any one of the following 3:
1) the 7 Canaanite nations
2) Amalek
3) an enemy currently at war against other Jews

Any war other than those has to get approval from the Sanhedrin Hagodol.

(Technically speaking, according to the Rambam, in modern day Israel, the only heter to go to war would be for self defense, i.e. Yom Kippur war, whereas the others, like Sheshet Hayamim, Iraq - Osirk, or even the '06 war with Hizballah would probably not qualify halachically as self defense, hence we would require permission from the Sanhedrin to initiate those wars.)

Anonymous said...

your comment is strange. either you are saying that there are no mitzvot regarding milhemet mitzvah (which is clearly not the case), or that defending israel is not a case of milhemet mitzvah (a contention that i did not make, and is not relevant to my -- rhetorical -- question). which mistake would you like to claim?

Anonymous said...

regarding the targum and midrashim: they're very nice... but a pasuk never loses its literal meaning, so you still have to account for the common reading of the text.

and, yes, david -- as well as certain shoftim -- did fight at hashem's word as delivered through the urim v'tumim. so, again, the plain meaning of the text does not support the idea that a blatt gemarra a day is all it takes to defend the yidden.

Dov said...

First, it's easy to say that milchemes mitzva refers to all wars with the arabs, since even if we preempt it's because they're trying long term to kill us, the current stage is just a temporary break for them. (Yes, I know that some can disagree, but my point is that what I said above is consistent with Rambam.)

Second, there are plenty of other mekoros about wars and soldiers. The Chazon Ish wrote a whole kuntres on the subject, based on the Gemora in Eruvin I think.

Third, if we want to be precise, it's hard to find any heter NOT to enter the army in a situation where we're being attacked. Which is why in 1973 even on Yom Kippur in Bnei Brak the men enlisted. (Heard from Reb Yechezkel's own RYMHCR.)

Fourth, look at the Gemorah about Dovid HaMelech deciding to go to war when there wasn't enough food in Israel for all the Jews, to see that there were a lot more wars than self defense.

Now that I think about it, fifth, there are halachos of milchemes reshus also.

Sixth, we have dinim of ushmartem me'od es nafshoseichem, and to kill a rodef, and many others that discuss the need to do what needs to be done on a practical level to protect ourselves.

Seventh, the Chasam Sofer says that Mitzvas Yishuv HaAretz includes all jobs and activities that are necessary for normal life in Eretz Yisrael. That would certainly include soldiers.

Now, all that said, I agree with the original commenter that Reb Yechezkel's original post about his pshat in Seifa and Safra appears to me to contradict the story about the induction ceremony and Rav Yoel Schwartz's comments. There's no problem with that, clearly Rav Yoel Schwartz and all the sources I just mentioned disagree with the obscure Sefer HaAruch that Reb Yechezkel quoted. But that doesn't change there being a stira in Reb Yechezkel's original post, as I understand it.

Janet said...

I was very moved with the induction of your son . We will make sure to keep him and his mates in our Tefillos. the Scranton H's.

SonofAuthor said...

just to fix a little mistake in the post, it's the netzach yehuda batallion in the kfir brigade

SonofAuthor said...

btw there is no contradiction, the sefer haruch is just saying that if we [all] adhere to the book there will be no need for the sword. and if we don't then we will need the sword to protect ourselves from those who wish to kill us.
nowaday's not all of us adhere to the book therefore we need the sword.