By HaRav Shaul Yisraeli, ZT"L
Pinchas, the son of Elazar and the grandson of Aharon, was blessed with an eternal covenant of priesthood (Bamidbar 25:13). As a result, the preferred candidate for the post of Kohen Gadol would always be a descendant of Pinchas. The reward was due to Pinchas because, at the time of crisis, he was ready and willing to stand up and take bold action. In next week’s parasha, as well, Pinchas had a prominent job amongst the fighters. He led the 12,000 representative-soldiers (1,000 for each tribe) of the nation in battle against the Midianites (see Bamidbar 31:2-6).
The norm within Am Yisrael throughout the generations was that soldiers were among the spiritual elite of the nation. The soldiers of Yehoshua bin Nun took up arms and fought to capture the Land, but at the same time they were expected to continue to learn Torah when there was any time and were criticized when they did not do so. David’s soldiers knew how to fight on the battlefield but also knew the secrets of "battle in the study hall" (see Megilla 14a). Students of Rabbi Akiva were among the fighters of Bar Kochva fighting for Jewish independence. Halachically, we are to strive that the nation’s soldiers will be G-d-fearing and specifically those who are "fearful due to sins that they have perpetrated" are to be sent back from the front (in certain types of battles) (see Sota 43b).
To this day, the young men of Yeshivot Hesder and the Mechinot are properly happy to serve in the IDF and do so in a way that sanctifies the Name of Hashem. Many years of experience demonstrates that their level of Torah observance is not damaged, and they can be found among the elite of Torah scholars as well.
As seems to be the case often, the public debate rages on the topic of the rules that will govern the enlistment of yeshiva students to the army. It is our responsibility to reach out to our partners to the world of Torah in the Charedi camp: "Take advantage of the situation. Specifically these days, if you the matter with an attitude of partnership, you will be able to benefit from wide public support and recognition of the importance of Torah in Am Yisrael officially through legislation - without the need for political pressure. It will help those who are not capable of learning Torah day and night fulfill their responsibility toward themselves, their families, their nation, and their state. Make the decision that whoever is not capable of being among the "first row" of Torah leadership should join the army after a few years in yeshiva. Afterward, he can learn a profession and set aside serious amounts of time daily for the study of Torah."
We pray that this dispute will find a solution in a pleasant manner, with mutual respect and on the basis of the recognition of the importance of the spiritual level of all stripes of members of our nation.