Our Rabbis & The Army

Rav Soloveitchik

Rav Soloveitchik was very meticulous and stringent in every phase of Hilchot Tefillah, the laws of prayer. He was once visited by a student who served in the Israel Defense Forces who asked the Rav the following question: He worked in the tank division and his job was cleaning and maintaining the tanks. Often, his uniform would get covered in oil and grime and he wanted to know if he needed to change clothing before davening Mincha. He emphasized that it would be possible to do so but it would be quite inconvenient and difficult. The Rav looked at him in amazement and said out loud, “Why would you need to change? You are wearing Bigdei Kodesh, holy clothes!”

That is how the Rav felt about someone serving in the the Israel Defense Forces.

(Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik by R. Aharon Ziegler)

Rav Aryeh Levin

A story is told of Rabbi Aryeh Levin, the famed tzaddik of Jerusalem, who once spotted a young soldier on a short furlough from the army. The rabbi knew the young man from the neighborhood in Geula, and so he crossed the street in order to extend his hand in greeting. “Shalom Aleichem,” said the venerable sage. “Please come to my home. I would very much like to drink tea with you and hear about your activities.”

The young soldier seemed uncomfortable. “I don’t think it’s right for me to come visit you,” he said. “I don’t wear a kippa anymore.”

Rabbi Levin, in his black hat and black kaftan, smiled warmly at the young man and took his hand in his own. “Don’t you see?” he said, “I’m a very short man. I see you, but I cannot look up so high as to notice as to whether you are wearing a kippa. But I can see your heart – and your heart is big and kind, and that’s what counts. You are also a soldier placing your life at risk for all of us in Israel. Please drink tea with me; your kippa is probably bigger than mine.”

Chacham HaRav Ovadia Yosef

As he began the prayer, Rabbi Yosef said that “G-d should bless the IDF soldiers who stand on guard for our benefit. Without them, we could not learn Torah. We would be under the thumb of the evil persecutors who harm the Jewish people. G-d should preserve them and keep them alive and well, as it is He who is fighting against our enemies.”

(Excerpt from an article about Rav Ovadia leading prayers for the well-being of the soldiers of the IDF)