Chemotherapy As a Metaphor

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35 Responses

  1. joel rich says:

    Well said and there are other side effects of this medication. I’ve argued similarly with regard to the horaat shaah issue (which, in theory at least means it is temporary in nature) and been told that this situation is not in that category but merely a return to traditional jewish values.

    Does the Moetzet have a position on this? What is being transmitted in the Yeshivot?What has been written in the past decades?


  2. Ori says:

    The real issue, which I don’t know if you can get into Mishpacha, is whether the chemotherapy of full time learning for most men is still necessary. Chemotherapy is a short term treatment, not something chronic that continues for the life of the patient.

    Let me ask this question in concrete terms. How would you react in these cases? How do you expect most Charedim would react?

    1. Your 20 year old son tells you he wants to quit Yeshiva / Kollel and go learn a good profession to support his family (or future family). He plans to lead a Torah lifestyle, and learn Torah in his spare time.

    2. Your daughter wants to marry such a man. He’s nice, well behaved and observant, but he does not want to study full time.

  3. shnmuel says:

    Throughout history we see that things which were instituted as horaas shaah eventually have become the norm. The rationale is that the initial horaas shaah continues because of niskatnu hadoros, pressures of the outside world etc. Some examples that come to mind are dvaarim sh’baal peh being written down and formal education for girls .

    I suspect that there is at least a 50% probability of the current horaas shaah continuing indefinitely as the liklihood of recreating lfe in Europe is next to nil, especially as we move further away and what was reality becomes distorted into a myth that never really was fact.

  4. anon1 says:

    RJR raises some excellent points. And the suggestion to open up more avenues in education available to women is also an important issue. But he stops short of addressing the fundamental issue — perhaps we should return to the model in Europe where most men did not stay in yeshiva indefinitely but rather served as the primary breadwinner. This approach would be not to the exclusion of spending significant time before and even after marriage in learning. Many, many young men in both the charedi and YU/MO world spend several years in the beis medresh before going to work. The difference is that in the interim there is a mehalech and a thought to what the end game will be, which will eventually allow the husband to earn a living wage. But the basic economic model — which currently brings money to the table as a primary issue in shiduchim, which puts enormous financial strain on many parents and in-laws, and which, as RJR notes, places considerable stress on the family life of many — should be revisited.

    I recognize that in Eretz Yisroel, as opposed to outside of EY, the army issue complicates things significantly. But that, too, should be part of the chesbon when this economic model is revisted.

  5. Mike S says:

    If one goes with the analogy, one also stops taking the chemotheraputic agents (which we would call poisons in other contexts) after the malignancy is destroyed. The curricular reforms aimed at keeping women from being too career minded, if that was in fact the goal, would make more sense if coupled with steps to encourage the men to resume their traditional roles as breadwinners.

  6. Dr. E says:

    As with some of his other recent pieces, JR makes some refreshing observations regarding some needed paradigm shifts within the Chareidi community. However, I am a bit perplexed regarding his historical comment:

    —–As a hora’as sha’a, in the wake of the Holocaust, the Torah leaders of the post-Holocaust generation advanced a societal model that had no obvious precedent in Jewish history. That new model was one of long-term, full-time Torah study for virtually all males.—-

    I am not sure what generation he is referring to (and its geography), but the Torah-only model to which he refers is a relatively new invention, at least in the U.S. In the post Holocaust generation (e.g., my father’s), those males who went to day schools and ultimately went to Yeshiva received professional/secular educations concurrently with their learning (mostly night classes). This generation tended to marry in their mid-20’s and by that time had about 6+ years of FT learning under their belt, sometimes culminating in earning Semicha– but even if not, gaining the skills and erudition during this relatively distraction-less period. Only then, they married and went into their trained professions or into business. A very small percentage continued to learn in Kollel full-time thereafter. Looking back, these were the builders of our mosdos Torah, shuls, and communities. And most of them continue to maintain active learning regimens daily as they have for the past half-century.

    The shift from the aforementioned model to the full-time and often open-ended Kollel really started about 20 years ago (give or take). Guys started marrying in their early 20’s and professional training was only an option that may or may not be on the horizon. This has become the norm and the resulting maturity and life-preparedness issues are no doubt factors in some of the communal issues that JR frames in his piece.

  7. Avi says:

    R’ Rosenblum–

    Is this your own reading of the situation (which I respect), or have you heard this from people whom you consider to have a high level of Daas Torah (expertise in living and applying Torah values)?

    An aside—If you are correct,it would be quite ironic that many of the same people who consider R’ Hirsch’s Torah Im Derech Eretz (Torah values shaping and using modern culture for its own ends) to be a Horoas Shaah (emergency measure)for his own place and time are themselves living a Horoas Shaah that might have run its course.

  8. tzippi says:

    Ori, as what passes for an out of town American chareidi, I can tell you how I would react.
    To 1: most boys need a few good solid years of full time learning. If my son wanted to get professional training, kol hakavod. At that age, I feel it would still be essential to be in a yeshiva environment so I would try to find a yeshiva that fit him, that is, one that allows the boys to go to college too. If he were older, yeshiva might still be appropriate. At the least, I would hope that his enthusiasm for life long learning would lead him to establish and maintain regular learning sessions (obviously someone in training like medical school won’t be able to put in the same amount of time as a future CPA), attendance at minyanim (see previous parenthesis), and that there would be a rav and a makom Torah, i.e. shul or yeshiva, where he would be welcome. I would never want my sons to feel disenfranchised.

    2: This isn’t theoretical. One daughter is looking for this. We believe that there are young men out there who can still be called bnei Torah even if not learning full time. And re scenario #1: I know young men who entered the work force but still maintained heavy duty learning schedules, either before marriage or earlier than many young men do now. They may work full, part time or somewhere in between.

    Back to Rabbi Rosenblum – is the hora’as sha’a message really getting out on a 1:1 basis as needed? And as for the money, in Europe girls would go unmarried if the families couldn’t provide a dowry. So is the emphasis on money new, or has it just skipped a few blessed generations in America?

  9. Harry Maryles says:

    Jonathan hits this one ‘out of the park’!

    The only point of contention I have with his article is the positive spin he puts on the limitation placed on women by some of the rabbinic leadership in Israel. He writes:

    An example of such ameliorative efforts (whether successful or not) would be the curricular reforms imposed last year on post-high school Bais Yaakov studies in Israel. Those reforms were predicated, in part, on the fear of young women becoming “careerists,” with all the attendant implications for their roles as wives and mothers.

    I view limiting women’s education in any way as a negative. But I agree that the intent was good. It is interesting to note however that Jonathan questions whether indeed this has even worked.

  10. mendel says:

    “Needless to say, the vast majority of Torah homes in which the wife is the primary wage-earner enjoy admirable marital harmony and the children are flourishing.”

    does the author have any statistics to back up this claim? i wonder…

  11. Ahavah says:

    Anyone who thinks that having your children raised in herds by strangers has no negative effects on them is being unrealistic in the extreme. But that is not the point I wish to make today, as strongly as I feel about it.

    That is , at this point in history, a lesser problem compared to the fact that entire communities have a generational class of basically unemployable young men who have no education or skills whatsoever that will enable them to earn market rate employment in the real world and contribute to the community economy instead of being a drain on it by way of charity and underemployment (often in a pseudo-charitable position by some friend or relative that runs a school or business or charity). There are simply not enough Yeshivas, day schools, and kollels to employ these young men as Torah scholars – nor could there be. The market is pretty much already saturated.

    Instead of a vibrant network of orthodox communities that are economically viable, where the young men learn trades, skills, crafts, and business studies to enable us to be nearly self-sufficient, we are heavily dependent on non-Jewish employers, welfare, and ponzi schemes – and merchandise made by foreigners. That money, which must be spent anyway for clothes, furniture, Judaica and household goods of all sorts, which should be given to our own community’s skilled laborers and craftspersons, is instead benefiting other nations’s schools, homes, and families. Instead of re-circulating in our community, it is sent away, lost forever – and the drain on our internal community economy has been devastating.

    The full-time learning model has bankrupted us, basically. Women will simply never be able to earn as much as men in the marketplace, feminist arguments aside, there are times when we HAVE to take off to give birth, take care of children or elderly parents, etc. This is reality – and I am greatly concerned what effects our dysfunctional internal economy will have on us in the wake of peak oil, possible pending hyperinflation, stock market “corrections,” bank failures due to the mortgage crisis, and other things from the “outside world” that aren’t going to just leave us alone, and because we have made ourselves do dependent on the outside world economy, ignoring these things may well be fatal to our communities – yet we are ignoring them.

    The only way to become self-sufficient is to start NOW remaking our internal economy back the way it is supposed to be – but I just don’t see that happening. The Yeshiva model is too firmly entrenched – and those who disagree are shunned and ridiculed, frankly, in many communities. Change has to come from the top – the last place where it can actually bloom, it seems. People fear being “different” far more than they fear being in credit card debt up to their eyeballs, losing their home due to continually taking equity out of their house, or begging for charity. “Different” is equated with “sinful” by our leaders, and I just don’t see that changing.

    The end result will be more and more kids benignly neglected, along with their grandparents, and women try and be super-heroes that Hashem never intended us to be – meanwhile our internal economy goes further and further downhill and more and more need charity and more and more of our dollars we do earn are sent outside the community because the young men are not willing to get their hands dirty and learn trades, skills, and craftmanship. How can this make sense to anyone? I cannot understand.

  12. Jewish Observer says:

    I am nervous for JR that he will be thrown out of the haredi world, depriving them and us of a an important voice from within

  13. Ori says:

    Mendel, any set of statistics would be suspect in this case. There is no objective test for marital harmony or for flourishing children. Anyway, I suspect that Jonathan Rosenblum had to write something like this to be taken seriously.

    If somebody tells you “X, which you and everybody around you does and believes in, has harmful side effect Y” the most natural reaction is to get defensive and say “No, I haven’t experienced Y, and neither did my friend Moshe!”. Jonathan Rosenblum preemptively says: “Y doesn’t happen in all cases, but it is common enough to be a concern”.

    From my perspective as an outsider Jonathan Rosenblum is providing excellent lessons in providing gentle rebukes. I just hope that he isn’t being too gentle. Rebuke can fail by making the audience angry, or by being ignored as “this isn’t a big deal”.

    Jewish Observer: I am nervous for JR that he will be thrown out of the haredi world, depriving them and us of a an important voice from within

    Ori: If the haredi world throws JR out over this, it’s not worth staying in anyway. G-d gave us the ability to speak for a reason.

  14. la costa says:

    chemotherapy should be only used in small appropriate doses. it usually is approved only after sufficient testing of risk and benefits, and only for the appropriate cancer. secondary malignancies as an after effect are quite common.

    it is prudent to concentrate on cancer prevention rather than using drastic methods…..

    however if it means that haredi society sees itself as dangerously ill, at least there is hope of finding a correct therapy….

  15. Toby Katz says:

    Comparing the “Torah-only” model to chemotherapy is a bit much.

    And careerist women now exist across the spectrum, I’d say even more — not fewer — in the MO world, where both spouses make a good living.

    I agree that most men should [eventually] work for a living but I don’t think the charedi model in which most men are learning full time is “poison.” Compared to the total number of Jews in the world (Orthodox and non-Orthodox), the percentage of Jews who are learning Torah full-time is very small and well within historic norms.

    You will not get women to leave the work force by getting their husbands into the work force, BTW. Times have changed too much. I say that sadly, as one who thinks that infants should never be separated from their mothers.

    PS. I wonder if you are not looking over your shoulder after writing something like this. The askanim who photocopied choice pages out of Slifkin’s ouevre and sicced the gedolim on him may be reading Mishpacha too.

  16. Aryeh says:

    “But we cannot afford to ignore the questions or fail to attempt to ascertain the answers.”
    How do we ascertain the answers? Usually all discussions of this sort (i.e. how much of a problem something is and what would side effects be) degenerate into argument-by-example and anecdotal evidence. How do we then go about ascertaining the proper path, aside from the obvious path of trial and error.

  17. Shira Schmidt says:

    In a fine essay by Joel Rebibo (Azure 2001 January) „The Road Back from Utopia”
    he explains that:
    The success of the Beit Ya’akov system in inculcating this message is largely responsible for the phenomenal growth of the yeshivot. Some sixty years ago in Europe, R. Haim Ozer Grodzinski, one of the leading figures of Orthodox Jewry …remarked that whenever he saw an unattractive or disabled girl, he would stand in her honor, “for she is likely to become the wife of a Tora scholar.” In those days, most of the women who would consider marrying yeshiva students were those with no other option. Today, in the words of a psychologist in Jerusalem who works with haredi women, “Grade A marries Grade A”—the top girls want the top boys, which means someone who will sit and learn for many years.

    Another testimony to R. Scharansky’s role in reviving the ideal of Torah:
    “We arrived as refugees from Vilna in 1941…looked around and saw that we would have to go to work because we wouldn’t be able to get a shiduch [match] if we learned. We came to R. Scharansky and told him our problem, and he responded, ‘Dear boys, listen to me; go and learn Tora and let me worry about setting up a Beit Ya’akov that will supply you with wives.’”

  18. Michael Atlas says:

    Nice article. Good mashal.

    I think the people who are anti-kollel for the masses do not appreciate what limud Torah does on a functional level (more shiurim for baal habatim etc.) or a mystical level if you will (Torah helps the community). And SOME who are pro-kollel do not want to admit to the possible side effects(shalom bayis etc. although there are often multiple confounding factors)

    Although, I think prety much everyone (“doctors and patients”) are aware of the side effects. But the issue that really might come to the fore is when the patient and the doctor are in conflict. V’hameivin yavin!!

    Pretty frightening.

  19. Steve Brizel says:

    IIRC, none less than R Mattisyahu Solomon was recently asked whether this strategy which was really brought to a zenith by RAK was proper. R Solomon responded by stating to the effect that one cannot fight today’s war with yesterday’s tactics and strategy.

  20. Chaim Davids says:

    The rising divorce rates in the Charedi world are caused not by inverted values but by the injection of foreign values into their midst. Too many of today’s Torah families have swallowed the bait contained in this article that money is somehow more important than Torah; the money values enforce selfish behavior, and then, goodbye marriage.

    For example of the “bait” in this article, notice how Rosenblum calls the lawyer wife a “prominent attorney”! The word “attorney” is much more impressive than plain old “lawyer.” Why does Rosenblum want to impressive you with her job? And “prominent?!” Lawyer women aren’t the prominent ones in the Torah world! Women who support Torah, however dinky their Rolidex is, are the prominent ones!

    Traditional Jewish values urge the wife to make great sacrifices so that her husband can learn Torah. Take a look at meseches kasuvos around samech gimmel for examples of much more unbelievable stores than a highly paid businesswoman making Purim costumes. Rabbi Akiva told his student servant, “Leave her! Sheli v’shelchem shelah!”

    This article points Am Yisrael exactly the wrong way. Turning the Kollel men into life insurance salesmen and the women into soccer moms would not only destroy huge amounts of Torah learning, it would turn their families from a Torah life to non-Jewish life.

  21. Ori says:

    Toby Katz: Compared to the total number of Jews in the world (Orthodox and non-Orthodox), the percentage of Jews who are learning Torah full-time is very small and well within historic norms.

    Ori: Maybe, but there’s a difference. Three hundred years ago the Jews who were not learning Torah full time lived next to the full time Torah scholars, tried to follow Halacha, and were willing to pay the price for having full time Torah scholars.

    Today the majority of Jews are not Orthodox, do not live within the same communities as the Orthodox, and don’t see the point of paying for full time Torah scholars. In the US do you see the Reform or Conservative movements paying for Orthodox Kollels? In Israel the government puts tax money into Torah study, so you have non Orthodox Jews supporting full time Torah scholars – but at the cost of a lot of resentment towards the Torah itself.

    Being on shaky financial ground in the US is dangerous. Before you trust the Israeli government to be consistent about anything, ask some of the previous inhabitants of Gush Katif if that is a good long term strategy. The high rate of full time Torah students in Charedi society may not be poison, but it is like putting the Shabbat candles where toddlers can reach it – the unintended consequences can get very bad.

    Shabbat Shalom / Shavua Tov depending on when this is approved.

  22. Orthonomics says:

    Toby Katz mentions that MO women are perhaps for “careerist.” I will not dispute that, but will say that my friends who are in the Yeshiva world have no choice but to return to work within 6 weeks of giving birth (sometimes less), whereas my MO friends have more choices and those who want to stay home for a couple of months or even a year will do so.

  23. Toby Katz says:

    Ori wrote: “In Israel the government puts tax money into Torah study, so you have non Orthodox Jews supporting full time Torah scholars – but at the cost of a lot of resentment towards the Torah itself.”

    I don’t believe the resentment towards Torah and towards charedim comes from the fact that tax money is supporting full time Torah scholars. Tax money is also supporting hospitals, universities and the Philharmonic. I don’t see people spitting at violinists and professors the way they spit at Torah Jews.

    The hatred towards charedim has deep roots, and a lot of it goes back to the beginning of the whole secular Zionist movement. You find it among secular Ashkenazim, much less so among Sefardim, who don’t have a history in their home countries of “Enlightenment” and its hostility towards religion.

    But you do see something similar to the hatred of religion here in America and in other western countries, where the secular “intellectual” elite has a visceral fear and hatred of evangelical Christians.

    Having said all that, I think it would be FAR preferable for charedi institutions to be self-supporting and not to depend on the Israeli government. Probably many secular Ashkenazim would still be hostile towards religion but it would still be ethically better and we would be so much less susceptible to political horse trading and corruption. My father zt’l believed in a Hirschian kehillah ideal, where learners and earners would live together in one community, with mutual respect, and with the earners willingly and even joyfully supporting the learners. A beautiful dream.

  24. cvmay says:

    “An example of such ameliorative efforts (whether successful or not) would be the curricular reforms imposed last year on post-high school Bais Yaakov studies in Israel. Those reforms were predicated, in part, on the fear of young women becoming “careerists,” with all the attendant implications for their roles as wives and mothers.”
    The curricular reforms that were initiated and imposed strongly on post-high school BY students were for various reasons. The Israeli Ministry of Education requires every teacher to be licensed as an employee in State and Religious Schools, whereas salaries and pensions are higher than in the Chinuch Atzmai system. To obtain this desirous license, a BY student is required to be enrolled in a 4year teacher seminary college, learning educational methodology, psychology, social models of education, etc. The professors of these subjects, those with recognized MA’s, are individuals not welcomed to lecture in the charedei BY world. This exposure must be curtailed! In addition the open-ended ability to earn $$$ out of the Charedi system is highly discouraged. Presently all teacher seminary programs are 3yrs, adding this additional year will push off marriages and the ability to earn a living. Concentrating only on the female side of the spectrum will produce an off-balance result, without making a dent in the over-all issue.

  25. Ori says:

    Toby Katz: I don’t believe the resentment towards Torah and towards charedim comes from the fact that tax money is supporting full time Torah scholars. Tax money is also supporting hospitals, universities and the Philharmonic. I don’t see people spitting at violinists and professors the way they spit at Torah Jews.

    Ori: I base my estimate on talking with Chiloni Israelis who resent Charedim. They see the value in hospitals and universities, and even in classical music – but not in Torah study, at least not at the current levels. Among people in their forties and younger, the financial aspect seems to be the main reason for resentment of Charedim. The old canard about military service doesn’t ring true, now that so many members of the elite find ways to avoid it.

    It’s true that this hatred has deep roots, but societies change. My grandparents had to explain and justify (to themselves if to nobody else) why they threw off their parents’ observance. Members of my generation do not. They tend to be more tolerant of other beliefs in general. It is relevant to ask why they accept a lot of other things but not Charedim.

  26. Dovid Kornreich says:

    To Mrs. Katz:
    Did any “Hirschian kehilah” you know of support full-time learners in a long-term Kollel with no feed into the rabbinate?

  27. yitz says:

    I find it interesting that so many readers seem to feel that Jonathan is writing about America, when it’s so clear to me that he’s writing about the situation here in Artzeinu HaKedosha [it seems that some of you are starting to catch on to this…].
    Regarding the inyan of Hora’as Sha’ah, it seems to be that the writing of the Mishna was more than that – it was “Eis La’asos LaShem, Hefeiru Torasecha.” I would not be surprised if those Sages who decided upon this knew that their move would be irrevocable. And noticeably, tho, they kept both the Mishnayos, and later the Gemara, in a form that still required a Mesora, that “baal peh” [Oral] connection that was so important to this kind of learning.
    I recall that Toby Katz’s father, HaRav Bulman ZT”L, telling me that the someone once asked the Chazon Ish how long this particular “Hora’as Sha’ah” was supposed to last. The answer was — 40 years. Considering that he was niftar in 1953, that means we’re some 15 years late! Isn’t it time to AT LEAST reconsider things?
    And Toby your comment that, “My father zt’l believed in a Hirschian kehillah ideal, where learners and earners would live together in one community, with mutual respect, and with the earners willingly and even joyfully supporting the learners. A beautiful dream.” does not quite jibe with your earlier statement that, “Compared to the total number of Jews in the world (Orthodox and non-Orthodox), the percentage of Jews who are learning Torah full-time is very small and well within historic norms.”
    And this, especially in regards to what Ori so correctly pointed out, that the earlier majority who worked were more inclined to support those who learned, than the situation in Eretz Yisrael today, where, as you yourself admit, is “susceptible to political horse trading and corruption,” whatever the reason for the antagonism. Certainly the present-day behavior of too much of the Orthodox world does not endear them to our secular brethren, unfortunately. Would it be otherwise!

  28. joel rich says:

    Not comparing R’ JR to Edward R Murrow or charedim to McCarthyites, but you might find it of interest to google – edward murrow milo Radulovich – and find out how the opposite of what Edmund Burke said( “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” ) can also be true.


  29. joel rich says:

    Regarding the inyan of Hora’as Sha’ah, it seems to be that the writing of the Mishna was more than that – it was “Eis La’asos LaShem, Hefeiru Torasecha.” I would not be surprised if those Sages who decided upon this knew that their move would be irrevocable

    I doubt it since aiui a horrat shaah is by definition revocable. IIRC R’ Schwab in “Rav Schwab on Prayer” mentions that in the future all these sfarim will be in the museum but not used. Quite the opposite, I wonder if these sages knew that their temporary emergency measure would become permanent (separate question as to how), would they have enacted it anyway?

  30. Sean Gordon says:

    RJR mentions the sacrifice of the Kollel wives which is indeed significant and should be honored. But others also pay into the “limud Ha’Torah” system ,Mr. Joe Israel. And while Mrs. Katz takes provides a historical sweep back to the earliest reaches of Zionist/Chardei antipathy certainly the resentment on the street and among my co-workers have nothing to do with that. It comes down to pure sense of equities: What are we getting out of this in other words no taxation without representation (Mr. Atlas’ mystical theory notwithstanding)? Moreover, if indeed pressing nearly 100% of young men into learning was a hora’as sha’a with the practical consequence of making others pay the bill – WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT – then it should be stopped the second it has achieved its intended result, to go further is a form of unfair taxation at best and a chillul ha’shem at worst. To keep the medical metaphor, its like a rich uncle is paying for the chemo, he’s fine as he loves his nephew, but once the treatment is finished he no longer is interested in subsidizing the hospital or doctors.

  31. Avi says:

    To Dovid Kornreich:

    Dovid Kornreich:
    “Did any “Hirschian kehilah” you know of support full-time learners in a long-term Kollel with no feed into the rabbinate?”

    1)I don’t know this for a fact, but I would bet that the well-to-do members of the Hirsch Kehilla (e.g. Baron Rothschild) DID contribute to eastern yeshivas for full-time learners.

    2) Wouldn’t you agree that a significant percentage of support comes from people who did not strictly adhere to the other approach either (i.e. Torah Only)? Many people who give support did obtain a college degree or secular education of some type, which does not conform with the Torah Only approach.

  32. tzippi says:

    27, the fact remains that in America we face similar issues. I hope that if R’ Rosenblum is following the comments he will address the issues being raised. I think he’s familiar enough with the American scene to comment.

    And re 20: “Turning our kollel men into insurance salesmen and the women into soccer moms…” Oy! I’m tempted to leave it at that but this is something that must be addressed. First of all, with the economy the way it is, it is unlikely that large amounts of women will be able to stay home in the foreseeable future. But are you saying that we should not have our daughters aspire to raising their own children, to the degree possible? I’m not saying that we shouldn’t give our daughters permission to have professional aspirations, or to work at all outside the house after they have children. Nor do I believe that children left with carefully vetted, caring sitters will be messed up. But what is the world coming to? When we raise and educate our children of course the primary focus of our lives is Torah, but we can’t neglect the core value of educating our children to build batei ne’eman b’Yisrael. We have to start with what a “bnb” means. And I feel that to earn a young woman’s full respect, of course a young man has to make Torah learning and living central to his life. We don’t want our young men to learn for 3/5/7 or whatever the going rate is years after marriage, we want them to learn for life!

    My apologies for the rant. This is not as carefully crafted as I would like a submission to be but I truly believe that this is one of the fundamental issues that needs to be addressed apropos R’ JR’s article.

  33. Toby Katz says:

    To Mrs. Katz:
    Did any “Hirschian kehilah” you know of support full-time learners in a long-term Kollel with no feed into the rabbinate?

    Comment by Dovid Kornreich — January 6, 2008 @ 1:44 pm

    None that I know of, that actually existed, but Hirsch himself wrote with great reverence of the great yeshivos and talmidei chachamim of eastern Europe. What he had in Frankfurt wasn’t his ideal either but it did produce wonderful bala batim with yiras shomayim.

    To Yitz:

    any apparent contradiction between my various statements has to do with the contradiction between reality and lovely dreams

    Right now there are yeshivos and kollelim and a charedi world in E’Y which is not living according to my ideal but for which I nevertheless have enormous respect. The total number of men learning Torah full time in the whole world is really not that large in proportion to the total number of Jews in the world, as I said. And despite whatever criticisms I have of the charedi world (and I have many) I do still profoundly believe that the world continues to exist in the merit of those who are learning Torah. The exact number necessary, and the exact mix of learners to earners, we can argue forever. Not every man in kollel should be there but that’s not the issue.

    Ori: your friends see the worth of hospitals and classical music, but not the value of Torah. I know that. But I believe that your friends’ very lives, and the survival of everything they have built in E’Y, depends on those who learn Torah. I know they don’t understand. I know it, I know it.

    The difference between me and “standard” charedim might be that I don’t think everyone should be learning and that those who are not learning, are second rate or failures. But I do believe that Klal Yisrael as a whole MUST have some full time, forever, learners.

  34. Dr. E says:


    While you may take issue with his metaphor as perhaps being over-the-top, the substance of JR’s post is right on target.

    First, I don’t see how you can claim that the recent shift towards Torah-only is within “historical norms” either in an absolute sense or as a percentage. I’m not sure whether the frame of reference is pre-War Europe or Pumpedisa, but either way, the norm was not to learn full-time—among both the rank-and file and the Amoraim.

    Today, if someone who attends a mainstream RW yeshiva does not intend to learn FT, he is not deemed to be a success story. Regardless of any deficiencies of acumen or zitzfleisch in learning and conversely regardless of any potential to be a working ben Torah, the norm is Kollel. Some are miserable but are trapped because of community pressure; others, more financially privileged, enjoy the forgiving schedule that can be “customized” to their needs. Your “eventually” caveat (for men working), without implementing a system that sets up an a priori, realistic plan is why the community is in this mess to begin with.

    It also appears that there was a jab at working women, insinuating that in a part of the community this is driven by the desire for financial comfort. Yes, that may be the case for some; but for others, there may be some Hakaras Hatov deserved, inasmuch as a second income is often required in order for full-tuition paying parents (some who WOULD prefer to stay home with infants BTW) to subsidize the schooling of the Torah-only community.

  35. ES says:

    When I first read this piece, I was speechless. For about a week, all I could say about it was that if things really change on this issue, from the inside rather than from crisis, Mashiach will come BE”H.

    Now I can detail my thoughts a bit more.

    Recently I questioned the exclusively-learning approach in a discussion with a chassidic-charedi Rebbetzin, to which she replied that nowadays the anti-religious influences are so great that the only way our men will survive is by a life in learning.

    While I can understand the concern, I wonder to what extent this new justification for kollel-forever is a byproduct of sheltering our men so aggressively for so long.

    Another reason no one would ever strike down a life of learning is because Torah learning should be the highest aspiration for every growing boy, and every man for that matter. (I’m not getting into al mnat laasot – learning for what societal purposes – here.)

    I once heard a parenting lecture which included a serious caution, said to be straight from the counsel of Rav Shach zt’l, that after age nine boys should not study any hobbies (carpentry, music, etc.) because it could distract them from learning. The lecturer explained the rationale, that they should see their sole purpose as learning Torah, not to simultaneously develop other pursuits (for future parnassah or otherwise). She went on to say that preparing one’s high school age son with any secular studies “just in case” he doesn’t become a Gadol is selling him short, and risking the higher goal altogether.

    But who’s to say that restricting children and adults from hobbies, or even professions, doesn’t sell them short as well? While too much individualism leads to everyone being his own judge, too much rigidity hampers Klal Yisral from using its varied strengths. (For example, how did Rav Vaya get so interested in bugs? Either he helped his wife in the kitchen, or liked gardening, or liked the outdoors, etc. And look what we have from that.)

    While history books are no proof of reality, I got the impression that the Gedolim of the Old Yishuv in Jerusalem held their PR agents and political consultants in the highest esteem, and they obviously were coming from very active work histories. Yet today someone in such a role makes quite a personal sacrifice, as many “Bnei Torah” will question whether that “professional” can adequately represent them. For example, the reaction to the metzitza b’peh (a circumcision procedure) publicity in the US a few years ago.

    If the tune of Torah-only-forever could be modified to Torah-primarily-foralongtime, and the Gedolim could guide us to appreciate everyone as necessary contributors and not as learners vs. sell-outs, then we can all stop complaining about each other and work together. And yes then bring Mashiach (and Moshiach 🙂

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