Kollel is Not Always Forever
[Editor’s note: Rabbi Rosenblum originally submitted this as a comment, responding to one reader’s feedback to an earlier piece. This piece is too valuable to allow it to go unnoticed to the many of our readers who do not look at the Comments section. At my suggestion, therefore, we are publishing it as a stand-alone submission.]
More than anything I’m saddened by the comment of KollelGuyinEY. Probably because I can visualize him writing with a feeling of self-righteous virtue that he has defended the honor of the gedolei Torah. He has not.
KollelGuy seems to think that because he has not seen a front-page announcement in Yated Ne’eman that it is now permitted to work that the exalted figures he mention believe that every yungeman must stay in kollel indefinitely. I would start the other way: Have you ever heard of a yungeman who went to one of the figures mentioned and told him — We have no food on the table; my wife is breaking down; our shalom bayis is a wreck because of fighting over money; or just that he feels that he is stagnating after many years in kollel, with no prospect of any kind of position in sight – who was told that he should nevertheless continue in kollel no matter what? I suspect that I’m a bit older than KollelGuy, and I can say that I have never heard of such a case, and I have heard of plenty of the opposite.
Immediately after the War, there were those who were urged to stay in kollel, even when their chances of success in learning full-time or possibility of satisfaction were slight. In a well-known story, Rav Aharon Kotler told a father who complained that it had been obvious from the start that his son was not suited to kollel: We are in a war, and in a war there are always casualties. The war was one to establish the legitimacy of long-term kollel learning. And, as Rav Mattisiyahu Solomon declared already years ago, that war has been won.
Casualties after the battle has been won are a different matter. As the old Yiddish saying has it, “Even the baker goes to war, but when the war is over the baker is again a baker.” In a similar vein, the Chazon Ish is also widely reported to have said that two generations of full-time learning were necessary to rebuild from the ashes of Europe. Those two generations have now come and gone.
And if KollelGuy asks, so why no announcements in Yated Ne’eman, I suspect he already knows the answer, or should. Ori, a non-Orthodox Jew in Austin, Texas, knows it: The last thing the gedolei HaTorah want to do is destroy the striving for greatness in Torah learning that characterizes the Israeli chareidi community. And any such public announcement would be interpreted as a statement that everything we did, everything we have built over the last sixty years was a mistake. (I emphasized in “Living with Complexity” that just the opposite is the case.) In other words, it would lead to an overreaction more dangerous than the situation it sought to cure.
There is another reason that there will be no such public statements. Any such statement would be met with vicious attacks by the “kenaim,” who would say about the gadol in question precisely what KollelGuy asks me: Who are you? The Chazon Ish did not say what you are saying; Rav Shach did not say it.” Perhaps KollelGuy remembers the attacks on one of the Sages he mentions for his tacit support of Nahal Chareidi. (Even Rav Shach used to say that he was afraid of the stone-throwers.) One of the members of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of the United States told me recently that the gedolim cannot even discuss questions surrounding poverty because if they did the “street” would just label them fake gedolim.
I do not know if KollelGuy is the same person who called me the night before KollelGuy’s comment went up to ask me why I’m against kollelim. But I suspect he is. That question is founded on a mistake and misses the point. Both my married sons learn in kollel, one of them in a ten-year dayanus kollel, and I hope and pray that my other five sons will learn many good years in kollel as well. I also learned 12 years in kollel.
I was not writing primarily about what ought to be, but what is.
Perhaps, as a chutznik, KollelGuy is unaware of the explosion over the last five years of training programs – both academic degrees and non-academic – for chareidi men. Changes are taking place, and that is part of the reality with which the gedolim are wrestling. Nor are the reasons too hard to discern, especially when one remembers that there are no historical precedents for a Torah society built around the ideal of full-time learning for every man forever – an entire society of Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai’s. (The number of those learning full-time in Eretz Yisrael dwarfs by many times the numbers of those doing so in pre-war Europe.) The denigration of “working” that one sometimes hears in the Torah community in Eretz Yisrael has scant support in the Torah, and countless sources refuting it — e.g., “Better to
I also suspect that KollelGuy does not have too many economic worries and that his children are still young. In short, he has little first-hand knowledge of the situation of thousands of yungeleit in Eretz Yisrael. I’m not sure whether he feels he is not allowed to think or just not allowed to pasken. But I wonder how he would answer some or all of the following questions:
(1) Do you think there are any differences of kind, not just magnitude, between the homogeneous group of idealists who rallied to the Chazon Ish’s banner and today’s chareidi community of three-quarters of a million nefashos?
(2) Do you have any idea of the degree of poverty in the chareidi world, including among avreichim? Do you see the chareidi world today as vulnerable? What, for instance, would happen if the Israeli Supreme Court ruled definitively that the state cannot fund schools that do not teach a common curriculum? Israeli welfare payments have grown twice as fast as gross family income over the last two decades. What do you think the impact would be if the Israeli government decided that disparity is unsustainable and imposed another dramatic cut in welfare payments, like the cut in child care allowances under Prime Minister Sharon (with Netanyahu as Finance Minister)?
(3) Do you see any cost to traditional Torah family structure from the assumption that the wife will be both the primary breadwinner and primary caregiver to very large families? Do you think most women are capable of sustaining both roles?
(4) Do you think the Gemara knew what it was talking about when it said that the primary source of marital strife is the lack of money? Do you see poverty having an impact on shalom bayis in the Torah community?
(5) What do you think happens to a eleven-year-old who is already struggling and falling behind in cheder when he asks his father what he is going to be when he grows up and his father tells him his only option is to be an avreich?
(6) Is there any point at which the communal cost in terms of drop-outs and broken families is too great to be sustained without being addressed at its core?
“Immediately after the War, there were those who were urged to stay in kollel, even when their chances of success in learning full-time or possibility of satisfaction were slight. In a well-known story, Rav Aharon Kotler told a father who complained that it had been obvious from the start that his son was not suited to kollel: We are in a war, and in a war there are always casualties”
The above remark implies that in the early days of Lakewood, R. Aharon Kotler told everyone to stay in kolleel permanantly no matter what their personal situation because “in a war there are always casualties.” This is not true. I know of two case where R Aharon Kotler personally told a talmid in the yeshiva that the time had come for that talmid to leave the yeshiva and get a job. And if I know of two such cases there must have been many more.
if it took 50 yr to create the system , it will probably take as long to adjust it…. and woulnt it be ironic if israel haredism envisions a haredi-with-parnasa system at a tiem when the US is moving to a torah-only system… can one imagine there will come a day when the collectors will have to travel in the other direction….
So how is it that the average charedi yeshiva bochur still believes that it is a gross bedi’eved to go to work? If the gedolim believe otherwise, they are not very effective at leading their communities, if they can’t get that basic message across.
I would expand the issues raised by #5:
What do you say to the young adult who is frum, erlich, wants to continue learning but CANNOT stay in yeshiva full time, for whatever reason? There are such guys, you know.
What do you say to the girls who is not ready, for whatever reason, to commit to being both the primary homemaker and primary breadwinner – but she wants a frum erliche bochur who will continue to learn? What do you say to the girl who girl who is not ready for this life, but who doesn’t know that there could be such a thing a thing as a frum, erliche bochur who is not plannig to learn all his life?
I am reminded of lessons taught me years ago in a business context: one does not make fundamental change gradually or without leadership.
Reb Zundel Berman (of Berman books fame) told me the following. He said he heard with his own ears Reb Aaron Kotler, zt”l, say, “Three years in kollel in enough for anyone.” I was told by someone who has been affiliated with Chaim Berlin for many years that Rav Hutner, zt”l, said “Five years.”
Now I am willing to grant that times have changed and the period of 3 or 5 years may (should) be extended. However, the point here is that for virtually all men learning in kollel there is a time for them to go to work.
In addition, there are great benefits to working.
The following is from pages 120-121 of Three Generations, The Influence of Samson Raphael Hirsch on Jewish Life and Thought by Dayan Dr. I. Grunfeld:
The Talmud places great value on people earning their own independent livelihood so as not to need charitable assistance. It teaches that one must use every honest means to achieve this end, and that to achieve it one should not be ashamed of any kind of work or service but should suffer the greatest hardship and privation rather than depend on help from others.
The Talmudic sages held labour in great honour: Their principle was “Great is work, for it honours him who does it.” (Nedarim 49b). They declare: “Even skin a dead animal in the street to earn your bread and do not say I am a priest, a great man, it is not fitting for me.” (Pesachim 11:3a). “Hire yourself out to do work that would otherwise be repulsive to you so as to remain independent of others” (Baba Bathra 110a). “As it is a father’s duty to instruct his son in religious laws, so is it his duty to teach him a trade” (Kiddushin 30b). A son should be taught a trade that would keep him as far as possible from temptation and which also leaves him leisure for study. “The God-fearing man who lives by the work of his hands is doubly well off; he is happy in this life and in the next” (Berachot 8a).
This is the attitude of our sages in the Talmud, whom nobody can accuse of having neglected Limmud Torah. And in the [Sefer HaYirah] of Rabbenu Yona Gerondi we find the following significant passage: “Before a man begins his daily occupation he should study the Torah in order to fulfill the commandment… ‘Thou shalt meditate therein day and night’” (Joshua 1.8). Afterwards one should go to one’s business; for “Derech Eretz” is a good thing and no one can serve God properly unless he takes pains to earn an honest livelihood.
On one hand, RYR’s points are spot on. Kol hakavod for saying the obvious things that no one else wants to.
On the other hand, Mary Shelley’s Dr Frankstein discovered something that is relevant to this whole discussion: You can control how you create the monster but once you’ve given it life, you can’t control what it does next.
Go ahead, walk into any major Beis Medrash in Israel or America and shout out “Okay guys, the Chazon Ish said it was just for two generations. If you’re not the next posek hador, pack up your stuff and go look for work!” What kind of reaction are you likely to get?
Lacosta: and woulnt it be ironic if israel haredism envisions a haredi-with-parnasa system at a tiem when the US is moving to a torah-only system
Ori: How far could the US move in this direction? The US government won’t pay for Yeshivot, and US welfare payments tend to be meager. Donations require donors who earn money.
To issues being raised by #4 (Observer):
I think it is incumbent on the “baalei batim” (literally, homeowners; I hate the term, but y’all know who you are) to become the kind of baalei batim who will not inspire fear and dread in the hearts of the full- time learners who cross your path. Spend significant and regular time learning. Have goals and make siyumim. Do what my father did and make an inyan your own and write some seforim. Have a close relationship with a rav (and we need to support and boost our congregational rabbanim) and let your kids know about it.
And to the wives of these baalei batim: facilitate this growth, and show the appropriate pride in your husbands’ accomplishments. Develop yourselves, personally and professionally. Do chesed and let your kids know about most of it. Be the kind of women your daughters can aspire to become. Totally anecdotal but I hear of cases where the men want to and are ready to leave full-time learning but everyone thinks she has to be a Rochel to her Rabbi Akiva. (You have to wonder, what kind of a life did Mrs. Yehuda HaNasi lead? And what about all the women in between?)
Is this a possible model for E”Y or only chutz l’Aretz?
I would expand on the issues raised by #5 even more. My daughter was raised in a home where her father worked, where today her married brother is studying law, where her brother-in-law is studying medicine. Both have strong yeshiva backgrounds and learned for a number of years after high school. Today however they are married men doing their hishtadlus to be able to earn a parnassa.
While my daughter wants to marry a young man for whom learning is a large part of his life, she also wants him to understand that parnassa is his obligation.
It is sad that she needs to explain to shadchanim that she wants a serious learner. As soon as she says she wants a young man who is in school or already working, they think she wants someone who learns if and when he has time.
She (and we) have to explain that she wants what the Torah says a man should be – someone who understands his responsibility to Torah and to his family and works at both to the best of his ability.
Leaders and followers have to be able to think outside the box. If chinuch for kids has to be “al pi darko”, so does learning for anyone else. So what exactly “al pi darko” is in a given instance has to be candidly investigated. The innate ability to excel (and at what pursuit), the driving will to excel, social/financial circumstances, etc., must all be considered.
I can understand the claim that an individual leader of the community is afraid to break with the rest because he will be marginalized, but how is it possible that the entire leadership cannot act together to make changes? Will no one follow them, and those who previously accepted every word they said will then instead transfer their allegiance to some unknown person who will be promoted in their place?
1. kollel for everyone was a horrat shaah (emergency measure) for 2 generations
2.Either the promulgators of the horrah did not publicize the nature of the promulgation or the memo did not reach the masses
3.Those currently in the position to undo the promulgation can’t do so with a public pronouncement because the masses won’t accept/believe them
4.People like R’JR must get the word out and accept the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
I dont want to get into a full discussion about this.
The main point I was making is not where is the full page ad in the yated. But rather why was the author not quoting current Gedolim? And if you have the backing of the Gedolim, who are they? And in what context do they back you?
I got an impression – and may this was a wrong impression – that the author was calling for a change in direction of where the society should be headed. This I do not think the gedolim are behind. True, on an individual basis, if a yungerman is not able to make it in Kollel for whatever reasons (parnasa, not able to learn, etc) of course the Gedolim will counsel him to try a different approach.
I have not missed the boat. I have noticed the trend of more and more chareidim going to work. I do not think that this changes the thrust of the society to go into learning, and only after that to go to work. I have not been here as long, but I question if that is really a change, or were there always chareidim working. Maybe not as lawyers and the like, but working, store owners, blue collar such as electricians, plumbers etc.
I am not the same person who called you the night before your post. Sorry to dissapoint you. I guess your message is being misunderstood by more than one person.
I do not think that you are against Kollelim. Were that to be the case, you would not be able to even claim to represent the chareidi community. Hence, even if you were against Kollelim, you certainly couldnt appear that way in your writings. (Not that you do). It simply seems that you – based on your understanding of RAK and the CI (both of whom died 40+ years ago) – that the system needs to change. My main point is that the “system” is led by the “sarai alafim” the gedolei hador.
Sorry for the confusion.
Rabbi Avigdor Miller said at one of his public lectures:
If a girl discovers the man she is dating intends to learn in kollel forever and never work, she should reject him and marry someone else.
I would like to point out that there are certain Yeshivos that limit the number of years in Kollel. An example is Yeshivas Rabbenu Yitzchak Elchanan where kollel is a maximum of four years before semikha. Even those metzuyanim who stay on and learn post semikha are given a four year limit. Perhaps other yeshivos should think of implementing a similar system.
Let’s get practical here. I personally know two men who have been in full time learning, both in their 30’s,living in Israel for a number of years. Both want to find a decent paying parnosah and are stymied. If you are close to 40 and have older children, where in Israel or the US can you get a job that will enable you to pay your tuition bills and have money left over for other needs? If you are closer to 30 and want to go into kiruv or chinuch, who is hiring? Not the Israeli yeshivos for Americans and not the kiruv kollelim in USA. Who has money? So this whole discussion is not dealing with the lack of available jobs for those who want to work. If someone doesn’t want to work and I don’t have to support him, what can I do about it?
Wonderful post. Yesher koach to you.
Not to nitpick against Dayan Grunfeld’s fine words, but IIRC Rabbeinu Yonah continues,”He should work for three hours and then return to his learning for nine.”
look , this is a haredi-from-the-inside issue. those of us who are non-haredim , don’t support the effort —either emotionally or [more importantly] financially [since without the cash, the whole system comes tumbling down] — and i suppose if the ipcha mistabra derech seems to be kosher vyosher to the haredi baalei daas tora—then the haredi world will have to go along and go it alone , for better or worse. like an aguna, that’s the system you have , the role meted out to you, unchanging unyielding. anyone clamoring for change is seen as short-sighted anti-tora anti-daas-tora an enemy of the RBSO and yisrael saba
[although other than the dor hamidbar–and even that was less than 40 yr in total , following the holocaust in egypt– it’s cerainly not been the norm neither in stetl circles , nor in sfardi society].
the mosdot increase in numbers, the dollar needs exponentially; the non-haredi participation in these ventures [ie supplying capital] ever decreasing…. what is a society to do….
“An example is Yeshivas Rabbenu Yitzchak Elchanan where kollel is a maximum of four years….”
you are talking about the 2 smicha tracks in YU – only one of which is stipended. and no one is “thrown out” after completing the program – men are always welcome to come learn, just no stipends. why are the program offerings of YU relevant when we’re talking about charedi hashkafa?
One of the members of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of the United States told me recently that the gedolim cannot even discuss questions surrounding poverty because if they did the “street” would just label them fake gedolim.
This is a great post Rabbi Rosenblum.
The only additional comment is that I have seen many times the mistaken belief that after spending a few years in Kollel, a young married man without a formal secular possibly with 2 or 3 children will be able to walk into a job which will pay him a wage with which he will be able to support his family.
Guys its time to take off the rose-tinted spectacles – life isn’t like that! Fortune 500 companies are not queuing up to employ Kollel graduates for their next CEO. The painful truth is if you don’t have any formal qualifications you are going to struggle to get a job paying a decent wage. Yes, its possible to undertake training but this takes many years and unless the Kollel graduate is not extremely intelligent this will take many years of hard work – and lets be real not every Kollel guy is a genius and even if he was he needs the willpower to spend years catching up.
This is why many Kollel guys are in a poverty trap – they cannot afford to leave Kollel. Even though they are struggling to get out of Kollel, they at least have some money coming in. But the real monetary benefit of Kollel is that the community does not expect them to pay their way. By that I mean they have no need to pay school fees, shul fees, they qualify for discounted food and other services. Taken together this is worth thousands of dollars per year.
The Chareidi world may not want to hear this, but the answer is to allow teenagers to do formal qualifications – yes it can be done in a torah true environment. This will give yeshiva bochurim / kollel guys the security to know that they have the tools they need when they leave the yeshiva world. Dare I say it, maybe this is what R’ Hirsch had in mind with his TIDE approach.
No doubt there will be posters who point to countless millionaires who don’t have any qualifications. I don’t doubt that this is the case, but I can tell you that for each millionaire there are 50 unqualified people who have tried to become a millionaire and are now penniless – the media isnt interested in them.
I think that there’s an important subtlety being missed here.
I think the question isn’t to push people to leave Kollel, but rather to push for people to stay in Kollel IF THEY CAN, and to be able to work IF THEY CHOOSE without feeling like they’re failing as Jews.
Add to that the need to be prepared with some kind of education or training. One can get education/training while still learning and while hoping to continue learning, just so that if the situation changes there would be practical options.
Add to that the need to consider fulfilling a man’s chiyuv mezonos as a good thing, not a bedi’eved.
Given all that, noone’s against kollel learning for those who can keep their family fed and cared (with all that that entails) in the process.
Not to nitpick against Rabbeinu Yonah, but in his time, three hours might have been reasonable hishtadlus. I don’t have a gadol to back me up, but it appears that in our time, 9 – 5 is reasonable hishtadlus. Which leaves considerable chunks of available time in the 5 – 9 stretch.
Could not agree more. In fact I have said virtually the same thing many times. Only when I say them, I am accused of Charedi bashing or Kollel Bashing. Thank you, Jonatahn for saying what needs to be said. Now it’s time for the members of the Moetzes to step up and start doing the same thing …and stop worrying about being called ‘fake gedolim’!
Let’s assume that there will be a consensus among Roshei Yeshiva that lifelong kollel membership is only for the elite. Then…
If a significant number of kollel men will need to enter the work force at some point to support their families, the men will have to be prepared in an organized way to make the transition. That includes:
1. Developing a marketable skill and knowledge base.
2. Locating and landing an actual job
(one that pays enough, so that the family will not be on public assistance = welfare. If the job is one that any entry-level man on the street or college grad can do, the pay may be too low)
3. Moving if necessary to where the job is.
The basis of the exercise is Step 1. So at what point in their lives would these men do Step 1, how would the necessary education/training be paid for, and where would it take place? If the kollel men were educated from the start only in institutions that lacked or denigrated general studies, the challenge when they must leave kollel would be especially great.
WADR to R. Rosenblum, I think your response avoids the issue. Yes, many gedolim would advise someone who has been learning in kollel for many years and who is now feeling financial strain to leave kollel and go to work. That, IMHO, is really besides the point.
The question is what does the educational system prepare one to do. In the charedi world, the answer is very limited: get a job in chinuch, or, if a relative or in-law has a business, go work for him. If neither option applies, then the person is stuck.
True, now there are vocational schools which in a year or two can help some transition to the working world. But for various reasons, that only works for some people.
The fact remains that, starting at age 5, a parent who sends his child to the charedi school system (especially in EY) is preparing him for only one thing: lifetime kollel learning. If later that does not work out (and “later” could mean at age 40!), then the other options are, at best, catch-as-catch-can.
R. Rosenblum’s post resonates powerfully. However, as prominent and as visible as he is within the Chareidi community, assertions made in the name of gedolim (“the Chazon Ish is also widely reported to have said that two generations of full-time learning were necessary to rebuild from the ashes of Europe. Those two generations have now come and gone”, “Reb Aaron Kotler, zt”l, say, “Three (or five) years in kollel in enough for anyone”) are only anecdotal. Unless there is an explicit, documented statement along these lines from a prominent gadol, past or present, KollelGuyinEY and tens of thousands like him will continue in their “self-righteous virtue”.
I have one major bone to pick with Reb Yonatan and that is his continued reluctance of placing the blame where the blame is due. The sad – and it is an immense tragedy – reality is that the rabbinic leadership of klal yisrael is presently controlled by a group of misguided, self-serving zealots who control access to as well as what is said by “gedolai yisroel.” Until this nega is removed permanently, the “gedolim” will cower in fear and to my mind, and I admit that I am a da’as hedyot, forfeit their right to speak in the name of the Torah ha-kedoshah. Perhaps I am braver than others because I no longer have to worry about the shidduchim of my children, but I can tell you that I honestly feel that I have been abandoned by the gedolim and therefore have to make some very tough personal decisions. I am grateful, for example, that I did not have the right to vote in the municipal elections in Jerusalem for I would have not been able to follow their instructions to place a gimmel in the ballot box when I knew why a certain person had been placed at the head of the list.
Rav Dessler’s interpretation of “elef nichnasim v’echad yotzeh l’hora’ah” which is the basis for the kollel movement we have today, might have been correct in the aftermath of WWII and the decimation of an entire generation of bnei Torah. On numerous occasions I have heard – personally – from roshei yeshivot and rabbanim that this interpretation no longer applies but they cannot say so publicly. I am sorry. Lo taguru m’pnei ish is incumbent and a gadol who is afraid of emes is simply …
There is a groundswell of anger – it began to show itself in the public reaction to this summer’s demonstrations by the Eidah – and it will grow, I fear, and destroy much of the good that our community has created as it seeks to uproot the rotten. The time has come to retrieve our community leadership and serve not only ourselves, but klal yisrael as a whole.
Kanaut has a place in klal yisrael, but when Eliyahu ha-Navi tried to institutionalize it, he was told “ee afshi bechah.” The rabbanim must publicly renounce those who would publicly declare that people should not partner with soldiers by reciting tehillim for their success. They must publicly denounce those who forge their names to pashkevilim. Klal Yisrael faces extraordinarily difficult decisions regarding the futrure of the State of Israel – decisions that will have implications on the lives of all of its citizens – chareidi or not. If we continue to focus on mehadrin busses and other peripheral issues, we will have lost the battle from the start.
“Rav Aharon Kotler told a father who complained that it had been obvious from the start that his son was not suited to kollel: ‘We are in a war, and in a war there are always casualties’”
I can’t believe that a real Gadol could say such horrific words…sounds more like the words of Stalin or Mao, than R’Aharon
“Perhaps KollelGuy remembers the attacks on one of the Sages he mentions for his tacit support of Nahal Chareidi.”
That issue was largely due to the issue of joining the army as it relates to Zionism and the on-the-grounds question if the army will have detrimental affects on the youngsters (despite the seperation of the Nahal recruits.) However, it is relevant regarding the negative repercussions and the message that it sent.
“The above remark implies that in the early days of Lakewood, R. Aharon Kotler told everyone to stay in kolleel”
– I don’t think it does at all. RJR clearly writes “there were those …”
I would like to address a different portion of the article. If it is indeed true that even a Gadol of the stature of Rav Shach zt”l needs to fear the reaction of kannoim, than the Chareidi community is in danger of straying far from the path of Torah. Gedolim in fear of kannoim was the situation leading up to churban bais shaini, as related in the Gemara, which is hardly a good state.
Ben Yissachar: I can’t believe that a real Gadol could say such horrific words…sounds more like the words of Stalin or Mao, than R’Aharon
I agree with your sentiment, but the name you are looking for is Patton, not Stalin or Mao.
To #22 and others – Take out a Michtav M’Eliyahu (I don’t have it in front of me). Look at the letter where he responds to a request for support for a seminar that will grant a degree (in England). He says that the Yeshiva world knows there are those that fall by the wayside. There is more detail there. It pays to read it. This is in black and white.
To #9 – They are the biggest threat to the kollel. The message is that a person can be matzliach in learning and earn a proper living. See the Michtav M’Eliyahu.
OTOH, many years ago I saw letter from the C”I in which he explains why there is a posuk permitting one to heal and no corresponding posuk that it is permissible to work. He explains that one would think that healing a sick person is not permitted because the illness is not the norm. The Torah, therefore, explicitly permits it. Earning a living, however, is part of the nature of the world. Hence, no permission is required.
“That issue was largely due to the issue of joining the army as it relates to Zionism…”
The point of the remark is that the Gedolim are under enormous pressure because they are subjected to an ideological frumometer. While I once counted myself among the ranks of Haredi Jewry, I eventually woke up and realized that despite all that I admire and love about the devotion to learning and observance in that world, I do not belong there.
Even as an outsider, I am deeply saddened that a Torah leader worries about being called a “fake godol” by kanoyim, and that this actually prevents him saying what he believes needs to be said. It is very disappointing to even me, an outsider. I imagine for those who believe that the Haredi rabbinic leadership possesses Daas Torah and is steering ship this an anecdote like this must be deeply painful and challenging of the entire paradigm.
On a basic level, I just don’t understand why mature scholars steeped in Torah knowledge are afraid of thugs.
“You can control how you create the monster but once you’ve given it life, you can’t control what it does next”
You can use the EXAMPLE of the Satmar Rebbe zt”l who organized demonstrations against the Jewish State of Israel, and see where that monster has erupted currently (as cohorts with Yassar Arafat and the Iranian PM).
#15 Nathan, The sayings of Rav Avigdor Miller are astonishing & perplexing….. Would love to find a talmid who could interpet his thoughts..
#16 Ezra, Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim of Queens has a closed door policy after a certain amount of years.
What JR said is not news to many who read CC and a cursory review of the situation in Lakewood would reveal to most that it is no longer taboo to join the work force when the situation calls for it. Very few of my chaveirim are still in Kollel. They’ve found jobs in chinuch, kiruv, and outside the beis medrash. The few who remain are there because they truly have no options. They’re not good enough to get jobs in chinuch and lack even basic skills to enter the workforce. [Note: I’m speaking about two or three at most.] The situation is different in EY and it is a lot more complicated than this post would reveal, but I still agree with its basic thrust.
What hasn’t been pointed out by JR or any commenter yet is that there is another message that needs to said in tandem with this one. Kollel fellows need to witness with their own eyes Baalei Batim who are Kovea Ittim in a serious and dedicated manner. This doesn’t mean that no one does so. Certainly there are many fine and ehrlicher Baalei Battim who dedicate significant time each day to studying Torah [there are also many dedicated Kollel fellows who spend their days in Torah.] Yet, if I look all around me, I see Baalei Battim who spend the vast majority of their day working and doing something other than spending time in the Beis Medrash. It’s a bit difficult to get too impressed by someone who studies Daf Yomi exclusively when you’re used to learning for fourteen hours a day. Sadly, when it comes to Torah study, the average Baal HaBayis is not the role model he should be. [Everyone here is quick to tear into Kolle Fellows – I wonder how honest they’ll be when it comes to analyzing their own profession.]
I have heard from more than one Kollel fellow about how they’re reluctant to leave kollel for fear of losing their ability to study and when I point out a Baal HaBayis who studies a significant portion of the day the response will be, “He’s an exception. Most guys don’t do anything close to what he does.”
Decry Kollel all you wish, but don’t forget to simultaneously speak of the need for Baalei Battim to exhibit serious dedication to Torah while you’re at it. The same Chazal who wrote about the need to earn a living also specified how many hours each day one should do so. Anyone here willing to state how closely they follow those Maamarei Chazal?
Nachum Klafter said in message 33:
“I just don’t understand why mature scholars steeped in Torah knowledge are afraid of thugs.”
Very simple. The scholars do not have security guards protecting them and their families 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.
I’d say those maamarei chazal are directional based on time and place and someone who never shouldered the dual responsibilities has a hard time accepting that you can rise befoe hanetz to learn or try to be mashpia, work a full day in a derech that is limud and maaseh, and then come home and learn (while at certain ages taking more family responsibilities) and teach. see breishit 31:40 for more detail.
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Kemach aims to assist at least 2,500 Haredim each year to enter the workforce.
Being at work now :)I don’t have the sufficient time to write about this topic at length, so I will make a few points based on the shared experiences me and my friends had as long term kollel learners currently working.
(1)I don’t think that everyone should learn his whole life, but I don’t believe RAK or the CI ever said anything about Kollel being a two generation ‘ho’oras sho’a’.Nor do I think that they were the only proponents and catalysts of the current Kollel system.
(2)I don’t know a single person who learned in kollel long term, that now regrets it, no matter what difficulties, doing so in the past is now causing him.
(3)Personal experience and all anecdotal evidence causes me believe the observation of Rav Scneur Kotler, that very,very rarely do you have some one learning with tremendous Hasmoda dieing to remain in Kollel who leaves because of money alone(3b)Money is actually a very small factor in most peoples decision to leave kollel .(3c)This is assuming one is truly willing to sacrifice for Limud H’Torah.
(4)Difficulty in being Kovae Itim, the shortage of erlicher baaley batim, the difficulty supporting a family for one who isn’t capable of being an entrepreneur, or successful professional, together with government programs are a major impediment towards people leaving Kollel(4g)the programs make so little sense and are so geared towards those in Kollel, that I (reluctantly)see the Yad and Ratzon Hashem in them.
Talking against Kollel, but neglecting to fight for Limud H’Torah (serious K’vius Itim),and against specific faults of the working world, further dilutes the value of ones opinion.
Avoiding the above would give much more credence to those who would like to see the Kollel system changed
To Mark, # 35 – your comment is rather naive. In the first instance, how does anyone know how many hours one spends learning? In most larger cities there are numerous battei medrashim around town – countless people go to more than one location. Just because you dont see him in YOUR beis medrash, doesnt mean he’s not learning.
Not to mention, not everyone spends all his time learning in the beis medrash. Kollel guys do, because that is their job location. But a lot of people, myself included, spend the majority of our time learning at home. Not everyone likes the “kol torah”, it makes it hard to concentrate. Dont think the one or two hours a week you see us is necessarily all that we do.
In addition, of course, the kollel guys should see how difficult it is to earn a living before they discuss the amount of time one learns. They should not forget that they are being supported on the backs of these heroes, who often work far more than just 9-5, and yet still have time to learn. The orthodox ballebayis who is koveah ittim, no matter how long or short, is the foundation of the orthodox world.
In a society where rabbis enjoy the right to their opinions and receive active support from colleagues with whom they might disagree, thugs have little power. OTOH when rabbis are ostracized and thugs go undisciplined, blaming the thugs does not address the problem.
IMO, RYR has hit the nail on the proverbial head in this column. Let’s face reality, just as the Talmud in Chagigah 5 relates that God cries on people who should be learning and are working and vice versa, the issue is making the right career choice and realizing that one’s Limud HaTorah as a learner/earner is hardly limited to Daf Yomi. I know many professionals who learn as much as possible in a very deep manner in as much of their spare time with numerous chavrusas and chaburos as possible and see no need whatsoever to feel sorry or guilty for the fact that did not learn in a Kollel.
Leaders who cannot say what needs to be said because of fear of backlash and/or misinterpretation are not leaders — they are politicians, and fearful ones at that. This is one of my biggest disappointments in becoming a BT in the American charedi-light mold — that there is a huge disconnect between what is openly said and indoctrinated into our children, vs. the reality and what is being said in hushed fearful tones. Seeing duplicity between public statements and private actions or opinions makes it hard for me to have emunas chachamim.
#39 – I B”H learned in yeshiva and kollel and went to work after several years because it was time for me to support my family; I understand that system.
The reason you see people like me spending a significant portion of time working is mostly because we’re paying very high tuition. It’s high because we’re also paying for the children of people in kollel, many of whom will never pay anywhere near full tuition. I’m also paying for my use of community mosdos that kollel people also use but can’t afford to adequately support. Then I volunteer my time to help run those mosdos which kollel people also use but can’t seem to find the time to help administer. Somehow I manage to give my family the time that they need and squeeze in a precious seder.
Despite the fact that they’re not “impressed” with us, it’s an incredible chutzpa for any kollel person to question our love and dedication to learning while benefitting from our time and money to the extent they do! Without us, they wouldn’t have yeshivos to send their kids to, shul’s to daven in and mikvaos for their wives to use, let alone kollelim to learn in.
One is obligated to support the shuls, yeshivos and mikvaos of a community, especially if they use them; there’s no similar chiyuv of Tzedaka to support kollelim and at most it’s Hachzokas Hatorah. Certain yungeleit would be well-advised to lose their superior attitude of entitlement because “prosta batlonim” like me won’t contribute another penny to such ingrates and the yeshivos that produce them, let alone let them marry our daughters.
Southern Belle ,
There are 2 ways to resolve the cognitive dissonance – change reality or change the indoctrination.
I would like to add to Rabbi Joel Landau’s comment (#42) that Jerusalem College for Technology has truly excellent programs for Charedi men and separately for Charedi women, especially catered to the needs of the Charedi population which factor in the background, strengths and weaknesses of this sector.
You make some very good points. However, judging by the number of tzedaka appeals that appear in my mailbox and at my door, the repercussions of too many people not allowing money to factor into their life’s choices can be heartbreaking. On a personal level, one of things I find most distrubing about the trend of promoting an entire society of full time learners is my own feelings of reluctance to support it; this is all while moved to tears by the desparate plight of the many without sufficient income, and while nurturing a strong desire to support Torah study. I find myself torn between wanting to help (and naturally I do) and not wanting to contribute to a way a life that seems to lead to severe communal distress. (I am referring to the E”Y model)
I spent 10 years in Kollel and the past ten working in Adult Jewish Education. I have a pretty fair idea of what goes on in each. Many Kollel fellows are well aware that they’re being supported by hardworking BB but that wasn’t the topic of discussion. My point was that when one learns seriously for upwards of 14 hours each day, it’s disheartening to contemplate working when a good BB can hardly squeeze two hours out of his daily schedule to learn. [I accept that there are some who do more obviously but take a poll of your average commenter here and see how many average more than that each day. I’m willing to bet it’s not more than 10% max.] It is a fact that many ex-kollel fellows struggle with this reality after leaving kollel.
If we want more of them to follow the excellent advice offered in this column and subsequent comments, the BB must do a better job of demonstrating that one’s commitment to Torah study need not be diminished [even if the hours will be] by joining the workforce. Right now, BB on the whole don’t do a great job of that. The thought of spending his life attending a Daf Yomi shiur is not appealing to Kollel fellows.
By now we’ve seen many articles and dozens of comments about the need for people to leave kollel. I think it’s high time to see a few about the need for Baalei Battim to increase their own dedication to Torah study. It would help the first cause immeasurably.
To Joel #41,
All maamarei chazal are time and place based. That’s why many of those quoted here in support of working are also irrelevant. One that seems to be pretty universal is the one about working only a few hours a day and studying the rest. Shockingly, few who comment here seem to pay much attention to that one. Why is that? Most likely, the answer is that all realize that each Maamar Chazal must be evaluated in context. This is true for all of them, not just the ones that happen not to fit into one’s personal worldview.
I think someone ought to point out that the gedolim are not “afraid” of speaking out about things in the way many of the commentors apparently imagine. Their “fears” come from being Roeh es HaNolad – anticipating what will happen – and appreciating the problems and damage that will follow. Among those, I would guess, would be rampant confusion about the right derech and what to make of the “Mesorah” we’ve been moser nefesh for all along. What the sophisticated or even just well-educated blogger understands and can appreciate is far more than the klal can. Leading a klal through change borders on the impossible.
Mark: My point was that when one learns seriously for upwards of 14 hours each day, it’s disheartening to contemplate working when a good BB can hardly squeeze two hours out of his daily schedule to learn.
Ori: Most people need 8 hours of sleep. Do Kollel learners only spend a couple of hours a day with their families? That sounds incredibly low for newly weds with babies.
Mark, I wonder how many men are learning 14 hours a day. I suspect that this is not a majority of the learners. As such, maybe these men should continue with what they’re doing, or stay within the “four walls of the beis medrash” as rashei chabura and beyond.
A prominent woman whose husband was an early student of Lakewood told me yesterday that they say a lot of things in the name of Rav Aharon Kotler that are just revisionist. For example, there is no eruv in Lakewood because, if Rav Aharon had wanted an eruv, he would have made one. She said that the kollel community was very small are the survival of the yeshiva was precarious, Rav Aharon was involved in hatzalah and in establishing basic principles. Nobody had an eruv in those days, so how can they ascribe it’s lack to a decision on his part. Likewise, these same people forget that in the early years , Rav Aharon permitted the Lakewood Cheder School (not the Bezalel Hebrew Day School) to have co-ed classes through 4th grade. Rav Malkiel Kotler and his sister were in the same class, his former teacher remembers.
I know for a fact that Rav Aharon told students that it was time for them to go get a job.It wasn’t open ended .
Your tough talk is impressive but I’m not sure it’s worth all that. Certainly BB contribute mightily to frum society. No sane person could ever deny that. I believe the same is true for Kollel fellows. Every out-of-town community that has a kollel can attest to the immense value they offer the community. Our entire system of chinuch is built on the backs of former kollel fellows who now teach our children and the list goes on.
If you read my comments you will note that I do not diminish the role of BB. All I point to is the need to make it easier for Kollel fellows to leave kollel by setting a better example. Some can do so, others cannot. It sounds like you’ve got a full plate on your hands so don’t feel any pressure. I was addressing others who can do more and aren’t. There are many Maamarei Chazal to support this but no one seems to be in a rush to quote them.
Mark said-All maamarei chazal are time and place based.
careful-you may get labeled as “modernish” by agreeing with my statement 🙂
Mark- That’s why many of those quoted here in support of working are also irrelevant. One that seems to be pretty universal is the one about working only a few hours a day and studying the rest. Shockingly, few who comment here seem to pay much attention to that one
I wouldn’t say irrelevant-they are part of chazal’s attempt to transmit the halachic gyroscope which we seek to implant in each of us in each generation. chazal realized life is complex and can’t be boiled down to a cookbook approach (boiled/cookbook – get it :-))
as i was taught, what you quote was a practical application of a meta requirement to learn when a higher order requirement (e.g. feeding one’s family) was not taking priority. how that plays out in each of our lives over time and in each generation,is its own post (example-if one could invest a week of one’s life in a project which would require they learn 0 (or perhaps just saying shma) for that week but guarantee a lifetime free from material concerns -would one take the week off from learning? (now generalize to college etc.)
In all my years in Lakewood, I never heard that Lakewood does not have an eruv because of R’ Aharon. The Yeshiva community does not use the eruv there because of serious halachic concerns.
The Lakewood Cheder was not in existence in Rav Aharon’s times. Rav Malkiel Kotler did in fact attend Betzalel Hebrew Day School, as did all the children of the Yeshiva community in those days.
I’ve been told by reasonable sources that in fact most avreichim in Lakewood do enter the workforce at some point – though it may be years later than many of us might deem optimal. The number of long-term kollel yungeleit (those learning beyond their mid 30s) is relatively small, perhaps 10-20%. Nevertheless the system itself has serious flaws that create future problems as well.
The kollel world has at best paid lip service to the chashivus of the typical Balabos. Other than as providers of material support, Balabatim are NOT recognized as the backbone of the frum world & as such valid role models for yeshiva bochurim to follow. How many of you have heard of a yungeman being given a hearty seudas praida for his decision to move on in his life & join the ranks of Balabatim? Moving on into chinuch, rabbonus, or kiruv, yes; going into business or some professional activity, no. What message is conveyed when a yungeman is allowed to leave kollel with a heavy heart, to do his life’s tavkid (surely a wonderful step forward!), forevermore believing himself to be a lesser soul as a result? Every move toward achieving one’s purpose should be celebrated, not shamed.
Kollel yungeleit all too often have not been given guidance & direction as to what path their lives should take. When is it time to leave? How long should one stay? For years I have suggested one small action that could have profound effect on the kollel system. In Lakewood most yungeleit attend chaburas given by well-respected older avreichim, Roshei Chabura. It’s not an official position from the Hanhala, & so they have no hierarchical standing. Yet if once a year every yungeman were to sit down with his Rosh Chabura for a review of the past year & projection for the coming year (sort of an informal Cheshbon Hashana), so as to get objective feedback & consultation without the need for any record-keeping or discussion with the Hanhala, the benfit would be great. Avreichim could make these most important life decisions with greater confidence & determination.
The fact that Gedolim fear speaking out about most sensitive subjects is much more a reflection on us as followers than on them as leaders. When, for example, Rav Mattisyahu knows that there are community members who for whatever reasons hold sway, who would actively pursue his downfall chas v’shalom were he to take a postion they oppose, should he step forward in any case & engender chaos and chillul Hashem? I’m thankful that’s a call I don’t have to make.
I don’t mean to diminish the positive role of kollel, especially Community Kollels. What I can’t abide are the prima-donnas who look down their noses at work and those who perform it. Every BB I know is setting the best example they can by doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing and trying to balance all of life’s demands. If certain yungeleit have issues with that, they need to grow up, take personal responsibility and stop making judgments about others. I worry about answering to HKB”H, not to some 20-something who expects to be handed everything on a silver platter.
The comment by DG — December 16, 2009 @ 4:04 pm said,
“Leading a klal through change borders on the impossible.”
Who led the klal through previous major changes, and how was it done?
The Yeshiva community does not use the eruv there because of serious halachic concerns.
Comment by Chaim Wolfson — December 17, 2009 @ 9:00 am
I have heard of serious issues in a major city, but in lakewood it is more aptly described as a unique chumrah, that is contrary to established/normative jewish practice in almost all european cities where geonai olam were morai horaah. The Rav ztl (with whom i happen to have learned Eruvin) did not use an(y) eiruv, but would always encourage their construction.
BTW my friends and neighbors – grandchildren of betzalel goldstein a’h -after whom the school was named can easily substantiate R. Oberstein’s comments about who attended and what went on in the betzalel school with a great deal more specificity.
RAK ztl was slightly more maikil on co-education than RMF ztl. But as rav Hutner ztl famously said back then, there are two shulachan aruchs – one for NY and one for out of town.
To clarify that comment, I meant to initiate change rather than to lead through changing times. the current derech is quite entrenched – I don’t know of any example of leaders successfully initiating a change of course in an environment like this. Does anyone else?
Rabbi Yosef Tendler, who learned for 10 years in Lakewood told me that the Lakewood Cheder School was started in Rav Aharon’s lifetime and while he was in Lakewood Kollel. He told me on several occasions that it was co-ed through 4th grade. He also told me that in his day, the yeshiva kitchen served regular milk and Breakstone Cream Cheese. When his grandson was in elementary school in Lakewood in recent years, the rebbe was expounding about Rav Aharon. The child raised his hand and said that his grandfather told him that there was no cholov yisroel in Lakewoood in Rav Aharon’s time. The rebbe responded “it’s a lie,Rav Aharon would never have allowed that.”
Rabbi Moshe Heinemann personally told me that it is a total falsehood to say that Rav Aharon was against a boy’s high school having a secular curriculum. He personally knows that Rav Aharon tried valiently to induce a high school to open in Lakewood and that he offered that they could have their food from the Lakewood kitchen. That high school would have had secular studies. I asked him why people like him and Rabbi Tendler and others who know the truth keep quiet, and he answered me that these people have an agenda and that what RavAharon actually did is not their concern.
The source of my comment was the wife of an early Lakewood talmid who was so told by people currently in Lakewood. I think that there is altogether too much revisionist history that takes away any diversity or legitimacy to any shita but that of whoever is ascendant at the moment.
Tell me, is it true what I saw on Matzav.com that the Lakewood Co-Op tool Mishpacha Magazine off their shelves and won’t sell it because of the current issue’s interview with Rabbi Hershel Schachter about his rebbe, Rabbi Solovietchik. If that is true, I rest my case.
I checked with Rabbi Moshe Heinemann and he confirmed that the teacher of the co-ed class in the Lakewood Cheder School was the wife of Rabbi Moshe Eisemann and she had Rav Malkiel in her class. He also told me that at Rav Shneor Kotler’s wedding there was mixed seating in the dining room of the Lakewood Yeshiva.
Rabbi Heinemann is very much in favor of separate seating at Agudah dinners and certainly at weddings and Rabbi Tendler is the one who brought cholov yisroel to “out of town” including Baltimore and Lakewood. What they are saying is that it wasn’t always the way it is now.
I’m not sure whar R’ Tendler may have meant, but the Lakewood Cheder is running an ad campaign leading up to their 45th anniversary dinner, and according to my calculations (correct me if I’m wrong)that means they were founded in 1964 or 1965.
You won’t have an argument from me about high schools in Lakewood. All the talmidin of Rav Aharon I’ve heard from say the same thing Rabbi Heineman does.
“If that is true, I rest my case.”
Perhaps you should not rest your case until you find out if it’s true. I personally find it very hard to believe, and would venture to say that I know Lakewood better than you do.
To #9 (Tzippi)
You don’t address the issue. What you suggest is great IF AND ONLY IF you can accept that Kollel forever is not the only appropriate way in life. If you can’t get past that, then all of those role models don’t do much more than assure people that you can leave kollel and not be totally and truly frei. But, it’s still only a model for totally second class “barely there” status.
To Observer (69): You’re right. B”H this isn’t an issue in my family. My kids have seen excellent role models in their father and grandfathers, they haven’t gone to institutions where they’re made to feel second class for entertaining the possibility of not being in kollel all their lives (or such kollel wives). As my sons mature, and go onto different yeshivos, I can only hope that we’ve given them an adequate foundation.
As I’ve mentioned, I think that in chutz l’aretz (for now) such models and expectations are still viable.
Notice that kollelguy did not respond to even one of Rabbi Rosenblum’s 6 questions. He says that he doesn’t “want to get into a full discussion about this”. Why not?
I for one would like a definitive list of the “gedolei yisrael”, with contact information for each one.
If a vague group with constantly chaning membership is deciding things, and there are Jews who follow what they say absolutely, it behooves the Jewish community to know who we are talking about.
There is a video available here on the internet, where you can view the zealots literally extracting “piskei halacha” (if you can even call them that) of their own desires from Rav Elyashiv. He doesn’t even have a chance to tell them what he thinks. The pernicious, cynical, and disrespectful use of a weakened and elderly sage they exhibit is enough to make anyone lose their breakfast. If this is “da’as torah”, it is a serious commentary on how much da’as torah is worth in this day and age.
Reb Leonard: I am a graduuate of the Bezalael Hebrew Day School in Lakewwod (1958) and Reb Schnur’s children did indeed attend Bezalel. Just ask Rav Malkeal. It was co-ed until 4th grade and seperate for limuda kodesh after that. Secular classes were mixed thru 8th grade. Different times and a different era. Economics were very hard and BHDS did the best they could with what they were given to work with.
Seems to me that an underlying issue not discussed here is the assumption in the Yeshiva-world that ‘Gedolim’ – usually meaning the people who were Iluyim in their yeshivas – are automatically suited to leadership and possess the perspective and wisdom needed to give guidance to the community at large.
This is almost axiomatic in the frum (Charedi and Chardal, and to a lesser extend, MO) world. There is a mitzva to do ‘K’chol Asher Yorucha’. It doesn’t mean that someone who’s a genius in the Beis Medrash should be making leadership decisions.