Tell a Yeshiva Boy: "Thank You For Your Service" and Other Suggestions
Today was a sad day in Israel when the Knesset passed its first reading of the "Equality of Burden" law. Sadly, the law will only promote inequality, as those Haredim who were not fit for full-time Torah study and were considering joining the army will now be dissuaded from doing so since they're being forced into it. So sad. Furthermore, this law is not promoting equaling the burden of Torah study to all. This makes things very unequal.
Some Haredi MKs handcuffed themselves to microphones, others tore Keri'a on the Knesset floor, while almost all of them said special Selihot in the halls. And their frustration is warranted.
How, as religious Jews, can we help persuade a secular majority and show them the importance of Torah study being on, at the very least, the same level as army service in their eyes? The truth is, it's difficult. There is definitely no magic bullet. Before anything, however, we have to believe ourselves that Yeshiva boys provide a great service to Kelal Yisrael. Unfortunately, too many religious people don't believe it and ask מאי אהני לן רבנן. If the religious don't believe it, it's hard to convince the secular. On that note, here are my small suggestions to help get the ball rolling:
1) Tell every Yeshiva boy you meet, "Thank you for your service". You do it for those in the military. Why not those in Yeshiva? Do you not believe that they should be thanked for the service that they provide? Of course they should be thanked! Their service is immeasurable and goes way beyond the service the army provides. Not only do they help protect Kelal Yisrael, but they ensure the continuation of Kelal Yisrael by learning the Torah that we all should be learning. Of course, say it to those in the army, but all the more so, say it to Yeshiva boys.
2) The religious media of all streams should do profile pieces on the best boy in each Yeshiva and let us know: a) what he's learning each week, b) how many years he's been in the Yeshiva, c) what Haburot he gave on what subject, etc. so that the world gets to know them. Otherwise, to the unaffiliated, they're just a bunch of moochers who accomplish nothing. The secular world knows the big rabbis - have them know the boys themselves and what they accomplished. Even more importantly, have the religious world know the boys themselves and what they accomplished.
3) Get the word out to secular and skeptical religious Jews that just as those who choose the army are putting their lives on the line for the whole nation of Israel, so too, Yeshiva boys are putting their lives on the line for the whole nation of Israel. It's not the same, you say? You're right, but not in the way you're thinking. Sitting and learning all day is no easy task, and at the end of the day, they have no Gashmiyut to show for it. Those in the army eventually get out, and many have job opportunities galore, while many of their Yeshiva counterparts barely get by. So please don't tell me that they don't put their lives on the line. עני חשוב כמת.
Lapid and company may have won the battle against Torah, but we will win the war. Let's start the new phase of this war right now.