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  1. Is one allowed to join an army (let's say not the Israeli one) as doing so is putting oneself in a place of sakana?

  2. If one is not allowed to join an army in general, is one allowed to join an army for "good cause" (let's say in World War 2 to fight the Nazis)?

  3. Is one allowed to dodge the draft (assuming he won't be caught and won't cause Eiva)?

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I think Hacham Ovadia holds that fighting in the Israeli army isa Milhemet Miswa. –  Hacham Gabriel Jun 25 '12 at 5:48
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@HachamGabriel The question specifically excluded the Israeli military. –  Double AA Jun 25 '12 at 15:59
    
@HachamGabriel Where? He seems to not say that now –  Shmuel Brin Jan 8 '13 at 0:00
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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Rabbi David Zvi Hoffmann, in Melamed le-Ho'il 42, was asked:

At this time, in all places where Jews reside, [at the command] of the king and state every able bodied man has to enter the military and serve for one, two, or three years, and he will be compelled there to violate Shabbatot and Yamim Tovim. Is a Jew who fears God's word and observes all the Torah's Mitzvot required to do all that is possible to avoid the military service, so as not to come to Chilul Shabbat, or not?

His answer, after weighing sources in the matter, was:

And now we come to our matter: It is without a doubt that, that he may not escape by any means from the military [service], is more [important] than a Devar Mitzvah, for whoever does so causes, God forbid, a Chilul ha-Shem if it becomes known, and will bring evil upon Jews, for Jew-haters will say Jews aren't obeying state laws. As one who goes to the army on Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday, is not violating a prohibition, according to most Poseqim, even if it is certain he will [later] come to Chilul Shabbat against his will, and if he does so for a Devar Mitzvah, like saving Jewish lives, or any other Mitzvah, he may go on his own even an 'Erev Shabbat to the army, so much so if one does not go on his own, but is taken in accordance with state laws, is it obvious that one is not requied to escape it, even if it is certain he will come to Chilul Shabbat, as by escaping he can come to some pitfalls. Therefore, sit and don't do here is surely better than a Devar Mitzvah.

Also, if we say that he is required to escape, in order to avoid Chilul Shabbat, then all Jews would be required to do the same, and obviously most will fail to achieve their goal, and it will have caused a great Chilul ha-Shem for nothing. Therefore, it is better you "keep the king's command"( Kohelet 8:2), and maybe you will find favor in the eyes of commanders, and will be left to observe the Shabbat, and do what is right in the eyes of God and man, for one who comes to purify himself, he is helped( Yoma 38b). And if you perform you actions for the sake of Heaven, all will make peace with you, "dwell in the land, and cherish faithfulness"( Tehilim 37:3), and peace upon Israel.

( All translations are mine.)

To the point, he says:

  • One may not dodge the draft
  • One may join an army for a Jewish cause( to save Jews, or observe any other Mitzvah), even if it means he will come to violate Halakhah.

I don't know whether he would allow joining an army, under other circumstances( like where there is no draft, no fear of violating Halakhah, and there is no Jewish reason to do so).

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this answer depends on the army and the cause. if the country has a draft and they allow freedom of religion such as the US army in WWII i dont see a halachic problem. my grandfather served in the navy. his son (my uncle) is a rabbi in lakewood.. see photo US army having rosh hashanah services in Germany Sept. 1944 http://www.ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/focus/jah/

however if you are being drafted into a army like russia where most jews convert or leave the religion evrything must be done to stop our young men from being drafted into the army

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joe barnathan, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for sharing your thoughts on this matter! You could make your answer much more valuable by editing in a source or reasoning based on sources to back up your opinion. Also, please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features. –  Isaac Moses Jul 2 '12 at 8:02
    
it sounds like you're using the principal of dina d'malkhut dina - when you have a government with halakhically just authority, you should follow its laws and even fight its wars. Makes sense to me. –  Charles Koppelman Jul 2 '12 at 14:27
    
It's (highly) possible that in World War 2 there would have been major problems of Eiva (Why do we need to fight that Jew war?) See Lieutenant Birnbaum who was told that by a Rov (can't remember who) when he wanted to dodge the US Army. –  Shmuel Brin Jan 8 '13 at 0:02
    
Just because the son's in Lakewood doesn't mean that the father was always correct –  Shmuel Brin Jun 12 at 0:28
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