Monday, September 29, 2008

Kollel & the needs of the Times

Rambam(Hilchos Talmid Torah 3:10): Whoever decides that they will study Torah and not work and will be supported by charity – that is chillul haShem and a degradation of the Torah and extinguishes the light of religion and causes evil to himself and takes his life from the World to Come. That is because it is prohibited from getting pleasure from the study of Torah in this world.Our Sages said that all those who benefit from the study of Torah takes their life from the world. Furthermore our Sages commanded that Torah should not be a crown to be a source of personal glory nor should it be an instrument to utilize for mundane purposes. Furthermore they commanded that one should love work and hate being a rabbi and all Torah which is not accompanied by work will eventually be for nought and will bring about sin. The likely end of a person who is supported by his Torah study is that he will eventually come to steal from his fellow man.



רמב"ם (הלכות תלמוד תורה ג:י): כל המשים על לבו שיעסוק בתורה ולא יעשה מלאכה ויתפרנס מן הצדקה הרי זה חלל את השם ובזה את התורה וכבה מאור הדת וגרס /וגרם/ רעה לעצמו ונטל חייו מן העולם הבא, לפי שאסור ליהנות מדברי תורה בעולם הזה, אמרו חכמים כל הנהנה מדברי תורה נטל חייו מן העולם, ועוד צוו ואמרו אל תעשם עטרה להתגדל בהן ולא קרדום לחפור בהן, ועוד צוו ואמרו אהוב את המלאכה ושנא את הרבנות וכל תורה שאין עמה מלאכה סופה בטילה וגוררת עון, וסוף אדם זה שיהא מלסטם את הבריות.

10 comments :

  1. There are also supporting mishnayos from Avos. But so what? The excuses for ignoring this, including pointing out that for several years the Rambam himself learned full time while being supported by his brother, are also trotted out.

    Where there's a halachic will, there's a halachic way.

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  2. The Rambam of course does not want to say that one cannot be a Yissachar if one has a Zevulun who supports him. His personal life attests to that. Rather, he wants to say that in the absence of a supporting Zevulun, one cannot declare oneself a Yssachar, because one will end up stealing, bring evil to oneself, and cause Chillul HaShem.

    Shana Tova

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  3. Indeed, the sources indicating support for this or that approach have been flying around for years.
    One point though is moot: without widespread participation in kollel learning, our yeshivos, girls' schools and kashrus organizations would collapse. Why is it different now than before the war? Because a far higher percentage of students remain in yeshiva for far longer and people generally aren't mature and learned enough to begin teaching right after their chasunas. And in the case of kashrus supervision, because the complexity and scope of modern kashrus requires a whole new breed of educated rabbonim.
    So, for better or worse, we've got to live with it.

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  4. No, I don't think so.

    For one thing, if the yeshivos actually had dedicated tracks and students had to choose one, you could produce experts in various areas after only a few years.

    It's because most guys sit and "learn" aimlessly (well, they won't admit it but if you haven't learned enough to get semichah after 10 years and you're still just "learning" it's aimless, I mean, they even given you only so many years to get a PhD!) instead of towards a defined goal of expertise.

    K'siva v'chasim tovah to all.

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  5. Garnel Ironheart said...

    Where there's a halachic will, there's a halachic way.

    An oversimplification, to be sure.

    Of course, other major poskim, such as the Beis Yosef in his Kesef Mishneh and in Yoreh Deah 246, the Rema (YD 246:21) and many others, do permit the practice. In general, when we have a difference between the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch w/Rema, we follow the Shulchan Aruch, not the Rambam.

    Moreover, R' Moshe Feinstein, in a teshuva printed in a Sefer Hazikaron printed by the Yeshiva of Staten Island (I don't know if it is printed elsewhere) argues that even the Rambam concedes that the practice of accepting support in order to be able to learn properly is permitted, although it is praiseworthy to avoid if at all possible. He bases this on the language of the Rambam in the following halacha which indicates that supporting oneself is simply "מעלה גדולה... ומדת חסידים הראשונים" According to R' Moshe, the Rambam's harsh language is reserved for one whose Torah studies will not suffer from the the effort expended to support himself.

    If R' Eidensohn does not have access to the teshuva, I can scan it in and e-mail him a copy, if he wishes.

    Outsider said...

    ...without widespread participation in kollel learning, our yeshivos, girls' schools and kashrus organizations would collapse. ... Because ... people generally aren't mature and learned enough to begin teaching right after their chasunas. ...

    This is a valid point. In no other academic field do we expect people to become experts by their early twenties.

    Does everyone need to become an expert? Perhaps not, but we certainly need a fair number of them, probably more than we currently have.

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  6. With regard to kashrus supervision, the only "eyes" that count are those of the mashgichim for whom there is no educational requirement.

    Once upon a time, to prove this point, a group of guys recruited a Gentile junkie with a Jewish last name and told him they could guarantee him a job if he merely dressed a certain way. They cut his long hair, leaving peyos, put him in a black suit, white shirt and wool tzitis outside his shirt and sent him down to the Vaad to apply for a job in kashrus. He was hired and put in complete charge of hotel Pesach kitchen that very day. (If you would not eat from the owner's home, do not eat from his restaurant).

    With regard to the level of education now vs. pre WWII, it is abysmal. Whatever these yungerleit are learning in kollel after their chassunas it is not worth much as an unprecedented number of our youth are off the derech, there are a record number of divorces and our communities are plagued by drug use, sexual problems etc etc in our communities is a real Chillul Hashem.

    It is time for our Rabbonim to recognize that the system is broke and needs fixing.

    The widespread practice of defrauding the government of both Israel and the US to support our families so men can "sit and learn" is stealing. To raise an entire generation to steal tzedakkah from the sick and disabled in the name of "Torah", is a crime against the Torah and a chillul Hashem.

    A man who receives tzedakka cannot even qualify as a kosher witness, so what does that say about the generation of learners who live off of the gov't and the tzeddaka of our communities? That they should not even be counted for a minyan.

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  7. This whole business of people needing more time spent in Yeshiva because they learn less qualifiedly and are slower to mature than they used to be is totally irrelevant. As far as filling in places for teaching and Kashrut supervision, only a small part of the population can possibly be employed in such an endeavor. Just do the math. Every man cannot be a teacher. Nor should girls in Beit Yaakov strive to primarily be teachers as the be all and end all. There simply is not enough room in the real world to employ them. In any kashrut organization you only need a few people who are experts in Jewish law and food chemistry, industrial standard etc… The rest of the moshgichim just take directives from their superiors what they need to be looking out for depending on where they are working.

    After the second world war when the backbone of the torah world was wiped out it was necessary to cultivate another backbone. This backbone has been achieved already. The economy simply cannot sustain an entire population learning in Kollel into their thirties and then going out to work with no employment experience or qualifications. Just think of the extra tzeddaka money that would be available for all other things. Take for instance the working poor, illness, better quality education for children in grade school etc… Without quoting the Rambam or other poskim our system is collapsing because it is innately unsupportable. There has never been a time in three thousand years of Jewish history outside of the midbar that we have endeavored to create such a society. Well the experiment was a great yahoo while it lasted but now it is leaving a trail of unnecessary misery in its place.

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  8. Garnel Ironheart said...

    For one thing, if the yeshivos actually had dedicated tracks and students had to choose one, you could produce experts in various areas after only a few years.

    While you might be able to produce people with reasonable competence in various areas, you would not be producing experts. I think we are dealing here with a different standard of expertise. For example, in my opinion (which I believe is shared by most bnei Torah), an expert in kashrus has a ready knowledge of all of relevant Tur/Shulchan Aruch, with the sugyos in Shas and a wide range of knowledge in the relevant shailos u'teshuvos.

    Given that such studies cannot even begin until the student is a fully matured Talmudic scholar, the idea that we could readily produce such experts in "few years" is simply not realistic.

    It's because most guys sit and "learn" aimlessly (well, they won't admit it but if you haven't learned enough to get semichah after 10 years and you're still just "learning" it's aimless, I mean, they even given you only so many years to get a PhD!) instead of towards a defined goal of expertise.

    Here we are dealing with an obvious major difference in ideology.

    First, on the facts, while there are certainly some kollel yungerleit who never really settle down to learn seriously, the vast majority of such fellows leave kollel after only a few years. From my observation, the vast majority of kollel fellows leave kollel after only a four or five years regardless of how well they are learning. (I am, obviously, only talking about America. Israel is an entirely different story.)

    As for the idea of "expertise", the basic ideology of Torah l'shma expoused by R' Aharon Kotler and others is that the purpose of learning Torah is simply to learn Torah. Expertise in any specific area - including semicha - is, for the most part, a by-product of this endeavor. Obviously, there are many bnei Torah who, for whatever reason, find themselves attracted to a particular area and become experts, but that is not the primary function or goal of a yeshiva or kollel.

    To say that bnei Torah who are studying b'hasmada for years and are, in many cases, bekiim in shas, are learning "aimlessly" because they haven't gotten semicha demonstrates a basic ideological difference. This difference may well be the most critical distinction between the "chareidi" worldview and that of the "Modern" Orthodox.

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    Earner said...

    Whatever these yungerleit are learning in kollel after their chassunas it is not worth much as an unprecedented number of our youth are off the derech, there are a record number of divorces and our communities are plagued by drug use, sexual problems etc etc in our communities is a real Chillul Hashem.

    I am not sure I am following this. The youth that are off the derech are not former kollel fellows. While divorce is rising throughout the Orthodox Jewish world, I suspect that it is probably lowest amongst those engaged in long-term Torah study. It certainly isn't higher. The same thing is true with regard to "drug use, sexual problems etc etc". I can't say that kollelim will save the general community from these problems, but they certainly aren't contributing to them in any significant way.

    The widespread practice of defrauding the government of both Israel and the US to support our families so men can "sit and learn" is stealing. To raise an entire generation to steal tzedakkah from the sick and disabled in the name of "Torah", is a crime against the Torah and a chillul Hashem.

    I agree with you that defrauding the government is stealing. Any yeshiva or kollel that engages in such forbidden practices should be shut down. But this problem is not inherent in the idea of kollel. I don't know how widespread these forbidden practices are. I, personally. did not encounter such fraudulent practices when I was in kollel. Granted, many yeshivos and kollelim are very adept at working the system to get as much money as is legally possible from the government. There are also kollelim (in America, at least) that specifically prohibit their members from taking any money from the government.

    A man who receives tzedakka cannot even qualify as a kosher witness, so what does that say about the generation of learners who live off of the gov't and the tzeddaka of our communities? That they should not even be counted for a minyan.

    This is a pretty radical statement to make without supporting it. To my knowledge, only a person who publicly takes charity from non-Jews when he could do so privately is invalid for testimony. (Yoreh Deah 34:18) Applying this to kolleleit is obviously problematic for many reasons:

    A) A very substantial portion of kollel yungerleit receive their primary support from their families and from their wive's employment. Just as an example, when I was in kollel, I never received any government funds nor did I get any kollel checks. (I also did not receive money from my family.)

    B) Those who take tzedaka while in kollel are taking it from fellow Jews.

    C) It is questionable whether taking government money is considered public. The standard definition of בפרהסיא is in front of ten men. It seems to me that getting a check in the mail is certainly not בפרהסיא. Cashing a WIC check or using one of those government cards at the checkout counter would probably also not be, but it might depend on how obvious it is.

    D) Even if it is, you have to determine whether or not they have the ability to do otherwise. Such a determination can only be made case by case.

    E) In my opinion, it is questionable whether taking government money is considered taking charity in the first place. (Briefly, as our government moves more and more in the direction of socialism, taking government money is just how the system works. Almost everyone takes government money in some form or another. Entire industries, e.g. agriculture, are based on government handouts.)

    F) There is no connection, to my knowledge, between being kosher for eidus and being counted for a minyan.

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    While I don't agree with much of Bartley Kulp's comment, he does raise an important issue regarding the economic viability of the kollel system. It seems to me that while this is a major issue in Israel, it is much less so in America. I simply know too many former kollel fellows who went off to law school (or similar) and/or got good jobs. At the same time, I know even more fellows who never learned in kollel who are working as checkout clerks (some with college educations). I am not convinced that spending three to five years in kollel creates that great an economic disadvantage. (As for those who chose to stay in kollel for much longer, in that case we are dealing with a relatively small and very committed group that will either stay in kollel permanently or go on to the rabbinate (or related fields) or into education. The next generation will need roshei yeshiva also, after all.)

    Again, it seems to me that the bulk of these criticisms are rooted less in actual practical issues but in basic differences in ideology. For those who truly believe that limud haTorah, in of itself, is the key to all of klall Yisrael's success materially and spiritually, these arguments are, for the most part, non-sequiturs. Perhaps the most dissonant idea is the apparent underlying assumption that we already have "enough" talmidei chachamim. I'm not sure if that is even possible, but, even if it is, I certainly don't think that we are anywhere near that point yet.

    I would add an additional point. There are a fair number (I won't guess at percentages) of yeshiva students who don't really "come into their own" in learning until they are in their twenties. (I was one such, and I wasn't alone.) To rule out kollel for such students would mean eliminating their most productive years of Torah study.

    Quite frankly, many of these complaints sound too much like social engineering. Ultimately we are talking about private decisions made by individuals. Who is going to decide who gets the chance to become a talmid chacham and who doesn't? Who is going to decide when someone has "lost his chance"? Without answering those questions, all of this is just kvetching.

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  9. I agree with you that defrauding the government is stealing. Any yeshiva or kollel that engages in such forbidden practices should be shut down.

    Here, here...glad to see someon...

    many yeshivos and kollelim are very adept at working the system to get as much money as is legally possible from the government.

    ...oh, never mind.

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  10. Eliyahoo William DwekMay 17, 2010 at 10:59 PM

    Any man who chooses to be a ‘rabbi’ (‘true teacher’ of Torah) or a ‘dayan’ (‘judge’), or a ‘mekubal’ (‘kabbalist’) should be doing so Voluntarily. Out of his pure love for Hashem and the Torah. And his Ahavat Yisrael.

    If he refuses to do community work voluntarily, and wants and accepts payment for everything he does, such a man should not be leading a community. He should get a job and earn a living. He can collect milk bottles or clean the windows. That is what is called ‘earning a living’.

    Torah is learned, studied and taught: out of Love. Voluntarily. But the ‘rabbis’ have turned the Torah into their ‘Profession’, from which they earn money.

    We are commanded in the Shema to:

    ‘LOVE Hashem, your G-d, WITH ALL YOUR HEART, and with all your soul and with all your might.’

    ‘VE’AHAVTA et Hashem Elokecha BECHOL LEVAVECHA uvechol nafshecha uvechol meodecha.’ (Devarim, Vaethanan, 6:4-5)

    Is the ordinary man or woman PAID to pray to Hashem, or to say some words of Torah? No. Has veshalom! But the rabbis are. These men can give ‘lovely’ shiurim that they have rehearsed. But they would not give a shiur without being paid for it.

    The true hachamim and rabbis of old, all actually worked at proper jobs and professions.

    Wake up! Even a little child could have worked this out. These salaried men can never truly stand for the Torah, because in a case of conflict between a correct course of action according to the Torah, and the rabbi or rav’s pocket – his pocket and position will always prevail.

    Pirkei Avot: (2:2)
    “Raban Gamliel beno shel Rabi Yehuda HaNassi omer: yafeh talmud Torah im derech eretz, sheyegiat shenaihem mashkachat avon. Vechol Torah she’ein imah melacha sofa betailah ve’goreret avon. Vechol haoskim im hatzibbur yiheyu imahem leShem Shamayim……”

    “Rabban Gamliel, the son of Rabi Yehuda HaNassi, said: It is good to combine Torah study with a worldly occupation, for working at them both drives sin from the mind. All Torah without an occupation will in the end fail and lead to sin. And let all who work for the community do so for the sake of Heaven………”

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