Thursday, July 21, 2016

The IDF Chief Rabbi and the Kohen Anointed for War

By HaRav Yisrael Rosen 
Dean of the Zomet Institute

"Pinchas Ben Elazar, the son of Aharon HaKohen, calmed my anger... Therefore declare, I hereby give him my covenant of peace, and he and his descendants after him will have a covenant of eternal priesthood." [Bamidbar 25:11-13].

"And Moshe sent them to the army, a thousand men from each tribe, together with Pinchas Ben Elazar the Kohen, to the army. And in his hands he held the holy vessels and the trumpets for blasting." [31:6].

"Elisheva Bat Eminadav achieved five crowns in one day: Her brother-in-law (Moshe) became King, her brother (Nachshon) was appointed a head of a tribe, her husband (Aharon) became High Priest, her two sons (Nadav and Avihu) were Deputy High Priests, and her grandson Pinchas was the priest anointed for war." [Vayikra Rabba 20].

"And the people of Yisrael asked G-d... And Pinchas Ben Elazar Ben Aharon stood before them on that day. And they asked: Shall we continue to wage war against our brother Binyamin or should we stop? And G-d said: Rise up, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands." [Shoftim 20:27-28].

Priesthood and the Army

The Israeli army is a central anchor of stability in Israeli society as a whole. This is even more so for those of us who grew up within religious Zionism, and who view the establishment of the State of Israel as the thrust of the wings of "the beginning of the redemption." For me and for those like me, the character of the Jewish army is a spiritual goal and a challenge. There can be no greater symbol of a Jewish nation than to have a national army. For sure, we are well aware that the atmosphere in the IDF is a far cry from our dreams of "the soldiers of King David," but in spite of any perceived lack, our IDF is the ultimate realm where it is possible to see the encounter between religious and secular living with our own eyes. This fact is reflected in a number of lines in the general orders of the Chief of Staff of the IDF, with the purpose of allowing combined living in such areas as kashrut, Shabbat observance, "appropriate gender integration," the status of rabbis attached to specific commands, giving soldiers a Tanach when they receive their rifles, and other Jewish symbols in the IDF.

Out of this range of Jewish symbols, we can raise the banner of the figure of "The Kohen Anointed for War," who is charged with maintaining the spirit and motivation, together with Jewish awareness, in case of war. The first one to be appointed to this post was the hero of this week's Torah portion, Pinchas, who was Aharon's grandson. He was given this appointment, as is seen in the quote above from the Midrash. His was a personal appointment together with a medal of "eternal priesthood," in recognition of his dedication and self-sacrifice which are described at the end of last week's Torah portion and the beginning of this week. Next week, in the war against Midyan in the Torah portion of Mattot, we will see that during the battle Pinchas was not stationed at the Altar or in a school for new priests.

The Kohen anointed for war stands in the front line of battle. His equipment consists of a surprising combination: " the holy vessels and the trumpets for blasting" – as quoted above. This unique personal load – holy vessels and the trumpets leading a charge – goes along with the priest's complex task, which at first glance appears to entail an internal conflict: a priest who is anointed for war! Without a doubt, the "trumpets for blasting" are a form of "Order of the Day" and a way to instill a fighting spirit among the soldiers.

The New Chief Rabbi of the IDF

The appointment of a new Chief Rabbi in the IDF has just been announced, Rabbi Lieutenant Colonel Ayal Krim. He can be definitely characterized as a man of both letters and military prowess. He has been widely praised in the press by both IDF commanders and rabbis, and it is not my place to minimize his image and his skills by adding my own words.

However, the traitors of Haaretz and their cohorts cannot abide having such a definitive symbol of Judaism in the Israel Defense Forces. A principled rabbinate is a thorn in the side of the priests of the "religion of empathy for the other." They want only to create a secular state of Israel like "all the other nations," and they scorn anything that is related to us and to Judaism. They dug deep and found some Torah declarations made by the rabbi (including Midrashic and highly theoretical interpretations), and "hung him out to dry" in the town square, even though they knew full well that this does not correspond to his practical actions and to his approach in his future role. In the same way, they attacked the Commander of the Givati Brigade, Colonel Ofer Vinter, who dared in an Order of the Day in Operation Protective Edge in Azza to quote from the words of the Priest Anointed for War as a way of enhancing the fighting spirit (including even among nonreligious Jews and non-Jews!). And they are now avidly attacking the character of Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, one of the leaders of the Eli army prep school, which provides first-rate officers for the IDF, who happen to wear a kippa under their helmets. His grave sin: a Jewish and Torah-true statement which does not correspond to the current wave of "post-" permissiveness. They scream and spit out: "Stop all support for his institution, and do it now!"


The best way to describe such people is in the words of our sages. They are " hypocrites... whose actions are those of Zimri but who demand the rewards of Pinchas" [Sotta 22b]. The hypocrisy cries out in reaction to the lack of an outcry against the IDF Deputy Chief of Staff, Yair Golan, who made an anti-national declaration on Holocaust Memorial Day. The hypocrisy is evident in their support for marginal people from the extreme leftist sector, who occupy senior academic positions and who support a boycott of Israel. In this way, they have gained hypocritical support from the "enlightened" people of Haaretz. Their institutions are given general financial support, sometimes from money whose source is hypocritical in itself...

(Written after the end of Shabbat, Torah portion of Balak.)

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