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Saturday, January 26, 2008

It's good to know how to shoot

I heard a story in a taped Talmud class - I believe from R. Fishel Schachter - about a boy who is facing the draft board in Europe in the early part of the 20th century. In those days in Europe, being drafted to the army was usually the end of one's Judaism - if not the end of his life - and so the father took the boy to the Chafetz Chaim (pictured, top left), Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan zt"l, the greatest Rabbi of the generation for a blessing. The Rabbi heard the father's request, looked at him and said "it's good to know how to shoot." The father was in shock and he asked the Rabbi again, and again the Chafetz Chaim looked at him and said "it's good to know how to shoot." The father continued to protest, but the Rabbi kept repeating "it's good to know how to shoot." Finally, the father gave up and left. The boy was drafted into the army. Years later, the boy escaped from the Nazis and was able to join the partisans in the resistance because he knew how to shoot.

I was reminded of that story when Mrs. Carl showed me this story, which appeared in the JPost earlier this week. Yes, there are Talmudic scholars who know how to shoot.
While members of the Nahal Haredi Battalion have decided to abandon the yeshiva benches in exchange for an M-16 rifle in the IDF, their past study of intricate Talmudic passages is assisting them today in turning into top-of-the-line combat soldiers.

Last week, soldiers from the battalion - also known as Netzah Yehuda - came in first place in a sharp-shooting course at the Adam Training Facility near Modi'in.

Representatives of the Golani and Givati Brigades also participated in the course, during which soldiers are trained to become sharpshooters and are taught to use mathematical equations to calculate the affect wind and distance will have on their shot.

Nahal Haredi, which belongs to the Kfir Brigade and is based in the Jordan Valley, was established eight years ago as a single company. Today it is a full battalion with three companies and an elite counterterror squad.


A Haredi source involved with the battalion said Monday that the soldiers' impressive results were due to their past Talmud studies, which helped them develop analytical skills.

The source said the battalion's scores were the best obtained this past year at the facility.

"Since the soldiers are haredi, they never really studied advanced math," the source said. "The course trainers broke their heads trying to figure out how the soldiers caught on so quickly until they realized that due to their experience studying Talmud it was a piece of cake for them to understand how to solve the complicated equations."
For the record, the founder of Nahal Haredi prayed in the same synagogue I did outside of Boston when we were growing up (he's a few years older than I am).


At 2:55 AM, Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

This is a great story. Nu, they have iron heads. :-)

My husband taught secular studies in a yeshiva in Scranton, PA, quite some years ago. (This was in the evening, when the gentile teachers came in and taught the boys math, English literature, etc., after they had been studying Talmud all day.) He'll like this story very much.

At 3:14 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Today's religious Zionists are indistinguishable from the Haredim. Yes, pious Jews make excellent soldiers. The Jews once used to be a nation of warriors for G-d. They will be again.

It is good to die for G-d - not passively in Kiddush Hashem but through defeating the enemy for the glory of Heaven and the sake of one's people and the independence of the Jewish people in their own land.

At 9:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It is good to die for G-d"

That's too coarse. The Torah prefers that we fight and live.

To quote Patton (at least in the movie):

"Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."

At 7:05 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Of course, its preferable to fight and live. Israelis have demonstrated their willingness to lay down their lives for their country.

The problem is Israel has a weak and timid government that is afraid to use overwhelming force to eliminate the Arab terror bases that encircle it out of fear of what the goyim might say. And that will cost a lot of Jewish lives. Few would be lost if the enemy was defeated while it is still possible to defeat him by making him the price of his hate towards Israel. That should be Israel's strategic objective.

At 12:24 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


I know that yeshiva well. I have friends who studied there.

At 1:32 AM, Blogger Daniel434 said...

Awesome. Thanks for sharing, Carl.


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