Sunday, June 30, 2013

But what’s the source?

Warning: The following post may exceed the recommended daily allowance for controversial topics. Proceed at your own risk.

In general, those who feel that not one of Israel’s chareidim should ever have to serve in the IDF tend to base their position on two separate claims:

  1. The chareidim’s* Torah learning provides a metaphysical protection that equals - or perhaps even exceeds - the IDF. (*Note the implication that it’s only THEIR Torah learning that counts. Apparently, neither hesder yeshivot nor working people who are kovei’a itim – i.e. regularly dedicate time in their busy weekly and daily schedules to Torah learning – have this power. But I digress…)
  2. The IDF is not an appropriate environment for religious or chareidi soldiers.

However, Rav Natan Slifkin recently highlighted the contradictions and inconsistencies inherent in the former claim, and in my post about the IDF and religious soldiers, I tried to show that the latter claim is simply untrue.

Which raises a key question that no one seems to be able to answer:

What is the halachic source for such a widespread military exemption? In other words, is there any heter (halachic justification or license) for not serving in the IDF?

After all, many (most?) authorities concur that the current situation constitutes a milchemet mitzvah (an obligatory war), when NO ONE is exempt from serving.

As the Mishnah (Sotah 8:7) famously teaches, during a milchemet mitzvah:

“Everyone goes out [to war] – even a bridegroom from his chamber and a bride from her wedding canopy.” (See also the Rambam - Hilchot Melachim U’Milchamot 7.)

And even if one disagrees and holds that the current situation is not akin to a milchemet mitzvah but is “merely” a milchemet reshut (a “voluntary” war), there still would not be a blanket exemption for chareidim.

The Rambam (Hilchot Melachim U’Milchamot 7) lists four very specific categories of individuals who are exempted from serving during a milchemet reshut, but learning Torah is not one of them.

Admittedly, some interpret the Rambam at the end of Hilchot Shmitah V’Yovel to mean that talmidei chachamim (Torah scholars or sages) resemble Shevet Levi (the Tribe of Levi) and are thus exempted from military service.


  1. Many commentators disagree with this interpretation.
  2. Shevet Levi was still required to provide logistical, spiritual, and moral support. (See here for more details.)
  3. It is very hard to say that the ENTIRE chareidi community, en masse, meets the criteria of “talmidei chachamim.”

So our question remains: What’s the source/halachic justification for not serving in the IDF?

I would suggest that it doesn’t exist…


Your thoughts?
(Please keep it civil. Thanks!)


P.S. The latest Kosher Cooking Carnival is available here. Special thanks to Batya for including my French coffee cake post.

P.S.S. The latest JPiX carnival is available here. Special thanks to Leora for including three of my posts: Nov, Hevron, and the wheat harvest.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Requisite Fast Day Food Post: Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars Edition

Note: In keeping with a longstanding Our Shiputzim tradition, the waning hours of a [very long!] fast day are dedicated to blogging about food.

It’s that age-old dilemma: Which homemade treats should you send back with your son the IDF soldier, when he returns to his base on Sunday morning?

At the recommendation of several Our Shiputzim readers, chocolate swirl blondies have become our default choice. (In fact, OS even had a batch with him during the weeklong Operation Pillar of Defense.)

Not only are they very easy to make, but they’re always a huge hit with OS’s fellow soldiers.

For instance, during basic training, one soldier took a bite and then - waxing lyrical – announced to the rest of the unit, “He who never tasted these cookies has never tasted delicious cookies in his life!

But as parents of Israeli soldiers are all too aware, the vagaries of military life are such that providing one’s son with freshly-baked treats isn’t always an option.

Often, a soldier home on leave will receive a last-minute phone call from his commanding officer – to the effect that due to unforeseen circumstances, the soldier must report back to base within a few hours and won’t be home for Shabbat after all.

Last week, this exact scenario played out here in TRLEOOB*.

Fortunately, however, a quick look in the freezer revealed that one of the wonderful Shiputzim daughters had recently tried her hand at a different type of bar.

Unsurprisingly, they also proved to be extremely popular with OS and his friends:

IMG_1994 - Copy

Chewy Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars

Adapted from here.


  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 TBSP hot water
  • 1½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups oats (i.e. kvaker, for the Hebraically-oriented amongst you)
  • 1 package chocolate chips


Combine oil and sugars. Beat in eggs, water, and vanilla. Add flour, baking soda, and oats, and mix well. Add chocolate chips, and mix through.

Place batter in a baking-paper-lined 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until done. Let cool in pan before cutting into bars.

!צום קל ומועיל


*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Heblish: The “You Have a Blog?!” Edition

You have a blog?!!

No, the question wasn’t meant as a sarcastic dig at the way I’ve been shamelessly neglecting said blog.

Rather, it was asked - with great sincerity – by one of our Shabbat guests, who was very surprised to learn about my online presence.

I guess I just don’t have that, er, quintessential blogger look...

(I should explain that the guest – who, after coming to us regularly all year, is now an honorary member of the Shiputzim family - had just complimented our talented Baker-in-Chief on her yummy cinnamon buns, and in response, one of the other Shiputzim kids had noted that the recipe is on my blog.)

In any event, he was curious to hear more.

So, what do you blog about?” he wondered.

It took me a while to remember.

Uh, well, lots of things. Recipes. Our daily lives. Um, you know, just random stuff,” I was drawing a blank.

But then it all started to come back to me.

Oh, and Heblish*, of course!

*For the uninitiated, Heblish is that charming amalgamated language favored by the Israeli offspring of Anglo parents.

And on that note, here’s yet another batch of entries from the Official Our Shiputzim Heblish-English Dictionary:

Just for nice: Hebrew source סתם ליופי. English definition – Just for decoration. Sample usage – “It didn’t do anything useful. It was just for nice.”

All what: Hebrew source כל מה. English definition – All that. Sample usage – “I have all what I need.” (Hat tip: Mother in Israel)

Losing: Hebrew source מפסיד. English definition – Missing. Sample usage – “You don't know what you’re losing if you don’t come!” (Hat tip: Mother in Israel)

Most of the chances: Hebrew source רוב הסיכויים. English definition – Most likely; odds are. Sample usage – “Most of the chances are that I’m going to have to do mo’ed bet of the math bagrut.” (Hat tip: Mother in Israel)


Don’t forget to submit your favorite Heblishisms, and I’ll be glad to include them in a future post. You can leave a comment at the bottom of this post or send an email to OurShiputzim at gmail dot com.


Previous Heblish editions are available here: Heblish I, Heblish II, Heblish III, Heblish IV, Heblish V, Heblish VI, Heblish VII, Heblish VIII, Heblish IX, Heblish X, Heblish XI, Heblish XII, Heblish XIII, Heblish XIV, Heblish XV, Heblish XVI, Heblish XVII, Heblish XVIII, Heblish XIX, Heblish XX, and Heblish XXI.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Freshly Baked Goods Friday: French Coffee Cake Edition

{INSERT: pro forma – and patently insincere - apology about my prolonged absence}

As you may recall surely have forgotten by now, the [no longer] recent bat mitzvah report included the following picture:


For reasons presumably known to my mother (aka This Recipe’s Source), the cake on the right goes by the name “French Coffee Cake” --- although it’s neither French nor made with coffee. (Discuss amongst yourselves…)

I’m told that a certain Our Shiputzim reader/member of the extended Shiputzim clan refers to the same cake as “3-2-1 Cake,” because in its original form, the recipe called for 3 cups of flour, 2 cups of sugar, and 1 cup of shortening.

However, as is our habit here in TRLEOOB*, we’ve long since changed the recipe.

Thus, I felt that a name change was also in order.

But to my surprise, no one shared my feelings.

Indeed, in the requisite Shiputzim family vote on the subject, I was hopelessly outnumbered. Everyone else wanted to keep the original name.

This leads me to one of two conclusions:

  1. Ours is a conservative household, where longstanding traditions are reverently upheld.
  2. Ours is a frivolous household, where the meaningless and the irrelevant are irreverently mocked.

I’ll let you decide which statement is more accurate, but in the meantime, please remind me: what is this blog called again?

Open-mouthed smile

French Coffee Cake

Adapted from an old family recipe



  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder (i.e. one envelope, for my Israeli readers)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup mango juice


  • 6 TBSP cocoa
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon


Separate eggs. Beat whites until stiff, and set aside.

Beat yolks, oil, and sugar together. Add vanilla and baking powder. Add flour alternating with juice, and mix well.

Gently fold the mixture into the egg whites, and then carefully pour some of the batter into a well-oiled tube pan. Sprinkle some of the topping over the batter, and then continue alternating batter and topping. Be sure to end with the topping.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes or until done.

Let the cake cool completely before removing it from the pan.



!שבת שלום ומבורך


*TRLEOOB=the real life equivalent of our blog