Monday, January 7, 2013

Level-Headed Businessmen

Someone by the name of Warren had an objection to the previous post (which is one of the top ten most-read posts on this blog of all time), regarding my criticism of open-ended mass kollel:
"You have yet to explain why thousands of level-headed intellectual and rational American businessmen support the kollel system worldwide by pouring in millions of bucks to keep it going. They evidently understand its importance, which we guys don't."
So, allow me to explain it. They may well be level-headed intellectual and rational businessmen, but that doesn't mean that they have been correctly educated about Jewish values. These businessmen have been indoctrinated by the charedi educational system to believe that there is religious virtue in the modern kollel system, so naturally they support it. Many have them have been led to believe that they are part of a traditional Yissacher/Zevulun partnership (whereas, in a posted entitled Is Kollel Rooted In Yissacher/Zevulun, I demonstrated that this is not the case.) Some of them undoubtedly feel that they can make up for their own "failure" of leaving yeshivah by funding those who stay.

Besides, there is a powerful example of how level-headed intellectual and rational businessmen don't necessarily make wise choices when it comes to religious matters. Just consider the case of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, who has some extremely high-profile businessman amongst his supporters. (See too Nahum Barnea's article, Pinto Case Reveals The Power of Israel's "Tycoon-Rabbi" Class.)

The good news is that I know many businessman who have become post-charedi (often thanks to the actions of the Gedolim in the Torah-science controversy), and who now give their charity dollars to worthy causes instead of harmful ones.


  1. NS, you come across as condescending and sociologically ignorant. That typically translates to mean thay you have an agenda.

    We are talking about billionaires here. Most are much older than you. They have lived through the sixties, seventies, eighties and saw much more landscape shiftings and societal contrversies than you have. Many have children in both the business and Torah careers, and they have a lot of perspective.

  2. I have enormous resepct for businessmen, usually more respect than I have for the rabbinate. They have keen isight into many things, and know how to get things done. Contrary to the ludicrous claims we constantly hear about "learners", it is upon the backs of these gvirim, and no one else, that orthodox Judaism is built. BUT - that doesnt mean they know anything about religion.

    Many millionaires are incredibly superstitious. Moreover, often its precisely because they are out making money that they have no time (or interest) in worrying about rabbis or rationalsim or mysticim. To them its all meaningless. A few million here or there isn't a whole much. So they give it to the type of rabbi they grew up with, and his causes, and dont even think about it. IN NO WAY does it imply that they've actually thought these issues and have concluded that kollel is worthwhile supporting. Very, very far from it.

    In some cases, of course, the support of a gvir does come from legitimate interest. Certain well-known gvirim I know of who support the kollel train never made their money themselves, they just married it or inherited it. But again, even if they did, it doesnt mean their opinion counts for squat. Like Holywood celebrities spouting off about politics, just because one is good at one thing, doesnt mean he's good at another.

  3. NS, I'm glad you distinguished between "kollel" and "open-ended mass kollel". I support the local kollel because they give great classes in the community. Obviously, not all kollels are the same.

  4. WOOOW not only the attack against the learners but now you are trying to dictate to people NOT to choose how they support with their money?
    I can almost bet that you would not and do not speak out against some of the modern "Orthodox" who give to different charities and support all sorts of unkosher things. For example Channukah parties with mixed dancing. Or charities that give gelt to enemies of Israel inside of Israel. Or some of the other worthless "charities". Yett the learners are the problem and the biggest threat and injustice?

  5. Some Gvirim, I do not kid you, keep their kids in Kollel, because they don't trust them to run their business efficiently.
    It is therefor much cheaper for the parents to keep the children in EY.

  6. the reason is very simple and you hinted to it. this might sound harsh but its for kavod and to be accepted into the chareidi circle. its not much different than a wealthy guy that drives a fancy car or builds a mansion. they don't need the car they need the respect it brings them. If you live in that community you need that respect. Like most things in the chareidi world its done for your name or for shiduchim for your kids. There are some , mostly BT or the type that give money as an easy way into heaven.

  7. Whilst I didn't like the tone of this post, I agree with the basic thread of the argument which is "Just because they are good businessmen, it doesn't mean they have made a thorough examination of the benefits and implications of supporting the kollel system."

    There are a few other assumptions embedded in Warren's question that need addressing:

    a) Not all businessmen are that wealthy or that smart. Many just give 10% maaser to the standard causes. It doesn't mean that they made a careful deliberation as to the best way for their tzedaka money to be used.

    b) Does anybody really 'understand the importance' of the kollel system? Has any substantial study been published? Success doesn't indicate value or validity. Hitler was pretty popular too.

    c) Has anybody actually studied the finances of the kollel system? Has Warren established that kollel-money is actively directed towards kollelim as an ultimate good, or is it directed towards kollelim as part of 'supporting our communities current structure and needs' regardless of it's ultimate utility?

    Finally, I would like to support RNS point about how businessmen can be dumb when it comes to Judaism. As a kid growing up, I was staggered at the moronic questions asked by succesful businessmen in our local rabbi's shiurim. These guys could grasp real complexity in law, accounting, finance, etc... but they were real dumb when it came to thinking critically about the verbal diahorrea coming out of the local rav's mouth. They swallowed it hook line and sinker without even thinking about it. So, Warren, you can be smart in one field and dumb in another, for sure.

  8. OMG, what a bunch of doofuses! You all feel the need to rationalize why "levelheaded" successful blue shirts would support Kollels!

    If you really felt that you had a legitimate position, you wouldn't wouldn't need to rationalize why levelheaded businessmen provide astounding amounts of suport to kollels. You would be secure enough to just say that the reason that so many levelheaded super-successes support kollels is because (pause...) ------> they have a diferent ideology than you do.

    The reasion that you all can't comfortabbly state the obvious is because you find that the sample pool of kollel supporting business successes is too large to say that they are all anomalies. You also believe that as a rule, enduring material success in This World is, as a rule, the result of diligence, material motivation and acquired secular smarts. All three of those qualities, you imagine, would not be pronounced in people who do not have a deep appreciation and understanding of the workings of industry. Kollel folk, you believe, are idealogically closed out from industrial ideals and understanding, so they should be the bane of the successful guy, who certainly never deigned to spend a day of his life in worthless kollel.

    Because you are so caught up in your own developed worldview, you can't be prepared to suppose that your version of reality doesn't actually define the material and economic reality.

    In America, we have a word for people who just can't Get It. Looza!

  9. "You have yet to explain why thousands of level-headed intellectual and rational American businessmen support the kollel system worldwide by pouring in millions of bucks to keep it going. They evidently understand its importance, which we guys don't."

    Why do you attempt to explain that? Would you not need to interview at least a subset of these "thousands of level-headed intellectual and rational American businessmen?"

    How is rational, level-headed, and intellectual defined?

    The frustration is immense because we nearly never want a conclusion to a question. To argue is enough which is another stupid goal of most students. Just like this vain attempt to explain in a short response a mere symptom of non-Torah Judaism.

    BTW if Slifkin is not condescending and sociologically ignorant, Yankee Doodle is a worshiper of the rich.

  10. Those millionaires didn't make their money by supporting mediocrity in both choosing their business partners, investors, and ventures.

    Yet, these people don't even demand that the money they pay to support someone learning, goes to someone who can actually DO something with their learning.

    There are so many "arm chairs" in Kolelim. They could make a huge impact by learning, working and being a walking Kiddush Hashem. God only knows we have enough bad apples. How about an influx of ehrliche plumbers, electricians, you name it?

    By all means, support those who are truly blessed and will make a difference. The scale we have now has removed any qualitative consideration and it is here that I differ with the "every person can be a talmid chacham line". I've been astonished with some people who have been learning for ten years and will never be able to "think" because that wasn't something they were blessed with

  11. I'm not a super-huge gvir/a, but b"h, we do our share. Here is a sample of my Torah-related donations:

    The local community kollel. As Pliny stated above, they do good work, and they are menshen, and I'm happy to contribute toward their salaries.

    A distant kollel's food fund. Just because I don't agree with their life choices doesn't mean they should starve.

    The hesder yeshiva my sons attend, beyond their tuition. To be part of that learning.

    I can also say that my impression is that people support institutions because they have a relationship with the person doing the fundraising.

    In general, the argument that it's a good system because people support it is not particularly compelling. It may have started as a necessary system and outgrown its utility, and it still supported. There are many such things in the world.

  12. I don't think it's emphasized enough the extent to which it's almost criminal that so many people have no problem taking tzedaka money that might otherwise have gone to people who truly need it.

    It's one thing for wealthy people to feel that they should contribute to the educational costs of the community. To have them (and the US and Israeli governments) pay for Kollels, to the detriment of people who need the money and can't support themselves, is a disgrace.

    Don't these people realize that every dollar or shekel they take so they can learn is a dollar or shekel that isn't going to an orphanage or to the government's health budget?

  13. To the community of (ostensibly) chareidi/kollel bashers that have posted,

    I think the kollel argument should be narrowed to a particular class. I think that most people on both sides of the issue agree that the prodigious and diligent avreichim deserve our respect and support. We agree that the fakers and those who see no "siman bracha" are not worthy. There also is probably no opposition from your side to short-term kollel stints. So it is the mediocre class that is getting your criticism and possibly my support.

    The mediocre class, gets my overall support, but not necessarily my praise. I think that you will find these same ideals as mine among most American chareidim (or American "equivalent" to whatever chareidim are). The mediocre class are a bunch of individuals, and their choice to remain in kollel can be right or wrong, on an individual basis, depending on each one's own circumstances, challenges and efforts to be Marbitz Torah.

    So, in my estimation, perhaps 30% of the medicre class are at any particular time, possibly making the wrong choice. But then again, perhaps 30% of the "blue shirts" have also made the wrong choice. We can't really know.

    Also, by the time a mediocre man has been in kollel five years, most often he has developed a profitable sideline (at least outside of Israel and Europe). Nothing to make him rich, but if he is sincere, then it qualifies as Torah In Derech Eretz.

    The gvirim who invest in kollel institutions understand that there are the deserving and the undeserving, but they cannot make the decision for each individual. They know that overall, the kollel system gives continuity to Torah, sincere avodah and to all around positive community values.

    By comparison, your camp does almost nothing for the future of Torah Orthodoxy. If you find this offensive, I am sorry, but the proof is in the pudding. Your sweeping condemnations of kollel supporters are at least as offensive.

  14. I think that most people on both sides of the issue agree that the prodigious and diligent avreichim deserve our respect and support.

    They deserve support only if they are heading to be teachers of some sort.

    by the time a mediocre man has been in kollel five years, most often he has developed a profitable sideline (at least outside of Israel and Europe).

    Discounting Israel is discounting the majority of people in kollel!

  15. Mr Doodle.
    You plainly fail to understand the point "NS" is trying to make; which is that it is wrong for able-bodied, married men to sit indefinitely in Kollel. Furthermore, the false assertion made by rabbinical leaders, that 'sitting' in Kollel is far superior in practice and aspiration than earning a living to support ones family, is morally corrupt.
    Your conviction that the advanced years and life experience of billionaires, sufficiently proves the need to maintain and support kollelim is nearly as funny as your suggestion that "NS" is sociologically ignorant and that he must be pushing an agenda.
    What is your agenda Yanky (ee)? Perhaps it involves generating income for kollelim from elderly billionaires…

  16. I wasn't arguring that billionaires' choices is proof of anything. I was simply criticizing NS' (an others') compulsion and attempts to explain why the successful (translated "productive") have follied with respect to kollel support.

    The simple answer, and it is neutral in this whole argument, is that they have a different ideology. I stated that NS came across as condescending when he tries to explain the "misconceptions" of "levelheaded" blue shirts. I think the rich blue shirts, who certainly can make bad decisions, don't need their hashkafic deficiencies diagnosed en masse by NS. They believe in kollel, NS doesn't. That's the simple answer.

  17. NS,

    Israel is its own universe. Please don't aim your attacks outside of Israel if you don't want responses that aren't relevant to Israel.

  18. I was simply criticizing NS' (an others') compulsion

    What "compulsion"? Someone challenged me, I responded!

    Please don't aim your attacks outside of Israel if you don't want responses that aren't relevant to Israel.

    What I wrote it true for the vast majority of Israel and much, even most of America. What you wrote is not at all relevant to Israel and only partially for the US.

  19. Isn't the question just another variation on "How can so many smart people be wrong about ______?"

    There have been a great many people, at least some of them very smart, who have believed in Christianity, Islam, or even Shabbetai Tzvi.

    Mitt Romney, a rational businessman if there ever was one, is, after all, a Mormon.

    Smart people can engage in denial, in faith, rationalization, and all the other not particularly rational things that human beings are capable of.

    For me, the fact that otherwise rational businessmen can be taken in by claptrap is no impediment to my conviction that the kollel system as it has bee instituted in recent times is an uprooting or our tradition.

  20. Right. You responded, and I criticized your response, mainly because it was an attempted rationalization based on your world view. You seemed compelled to apologize for the levelheaded productive person's follies. Why rationalize? Just disagree with those billionaries' ideaology.

  21. Eh? I'm not "apologizing," I'm explaining what I believe to be the truth!

  22. Most of the American yeshiva community does not believe in mass open-ended kollel (even though they believe in the primacy of learning Torah above all else).

    Chofetz Chaim and Ner Yisroel are explicit about this.
    You simply don't see great masses of the "yeshivish" male population sitting in Kollel in America (though, of course, many do).
    The main holdout is Lakewood, but even there I sense the concept is weakening, though they still defend it - Lakewood is full of working men (though still not enough in my opinion).

  23. I find it surprising that giving money to build a beit knesset is tzedakah, giving money to buy seforim or furniture for the beit knesset is tzedakah, but giving money for stipends for guys learning in the beit knesset is an "unworthy cause".

    I'm sure anyone who donates to a kollel wants that the people in the kollel will learn seriously--just like the people who gave money for books and furniture for the beit knesset want to see these books and furniture put to use.

  24. Smart business people were taken by Madoff to the tune of 50 BILLION!!!

  25. yidlmitnfidl- Most of them were not smart, they were greedy (wanted to make high returns that he was showing at first).

    Yankee Doodle- Great posts. You nailed it.
    Let's admit the facts- NS and those who support his post here (this post in particular), do not value learning Torah and the learners of the Torah. Those who support Kollels value supporting learning of the Torah that is why they choose to spend their money this way in the proportions that that do compared to other causes.


  26. Moshe, it's not that we don't value Torah. It's that we don't value those who learn Torah at the expense of the very halachic and hashkafic obligations that the Torah mandates must be done instead of taking money to learn Torah.


  27. Um, if I don't value learning Torah, then why do I spend so much of my time doing that?

  28. Rabbi Natan, your responses are normally well thought out, however in this blog i must say Warren raises a fair question but you do not respond in kind.
    His question did get me and my husband (an ex Kollel) thinking...perhaps
    there is more to the Kollel system than us folk make it out to be.
    I understand your hatred to the thousands of kollelnicks out there, but we were all waiting for a good reply which you failed to deliver


  29. Not sure what "hatred" you are talking about. Also, there's not much point describing my answer as insufficient unless you can explain why.

  30. I would appreciate if you would allow me just a few more lines on the kollel issue.
    As someone who financially supports the kollel system, i would like to respond to rabbi slifkin that i have not been indocrinated by the charedi system nor to the claim of his followers that i lack intelligence or i am superstitious.
    Rather i have done the maths.... There are today 13 million jews worldwide. As a very generous estimate lets assume there are 100,000 kollel students (5000 in Mir, 5000 in BMG and lets assume another 90,000 worldwide)
    So we have LESS THAN ONE PERCENT of the Jewish Nation in full time learning.
    With such a minute amount of jews studying Torah i am sure your readers will be more sympathetic to the cause, and i am also sure Rabbi Slifkin will now be able to look at the issue more rationally, without feeling the kollel system is such a threat to Orthodox Jewry.

  31. Warren, I greatly admire your concern for the Jewish People, but I don't understand you.

    First of all, there is vastly, vastly more Torah being studied today than at any time before in Jewish history.

    Second, there is indeed a tragedy that most Jews are entirely removed from Torah. But how does mass kollel compensate for that? Should the avreichim wear multiple sets of tefillin, to compensate for all those who are not wearing tefillin?

    Furthermore, as discussed in other posts, supporting the kollel system means perpetuating a lifestyle whereby people raise their children with no desire or ability to support their own families. So unless you are willing and able to exponentially increase your support with each generation, you are assisting them on a path towards greater problems.

  32. NS- "there is vastly, vastly more Torah being studied today than at any time before in Jewish history."

    Their is also a lot more wealth and financial abilities today then in any other time in Jewish history. Does that mean we are to decrease people's wealth to combat this phenomena?

    I understand your concerns for suture generations and some things already ARE being done within those communities. BUT to tell people and publicly to stop (or decrease) supporting those who learn Torah and the charities is ludacris. In Pirki Avot it is described that the person who does such (does not give and says not to give) is described as a "Rasha".

  33. Their is also a lot more wealth and financial abilities today then in any other time in Jewish history. Does that mean we are to decrease people's wealth to combat this phenomena?

    What a strange thing to say. There are no problems with wealth, such that it has to be combated. There are problems, however, with a system in which children are raised without the means or desire to support their families.

    BUT to tell people and publicly to stop (or decrease) supporting those who learn Torah and the charities is ludacris.


    And Pirkei Avos is most definitely not referring to cases of non-charitable causes that are posing as charitable causes!

  34. If people want to support Torah, which is great, there are a variety of wonderful ways to do so, which do not involved perpetuating the hamrful mass-kollel system. It's not as though there's no Torah outside the charedi world! Support kollel mitziyon, Machon Meir, etc., etc.

  35. Also, if the main concern is the state of the Jewish Nation, surely it would be better to donate to outreach organizations/ outreach kollels that teach Torah, rather than to charedi kollels?

  36. Hi Rabbi, no need to put this on your blog as you have moved on to other topics but there are great factual errors in your response to me when you say there is more Torah studied today than any other time during jewish history. It is simply false.
    Gods original plan was to have 2 of the shevatim learning Torah (Yissacher & Levi)
    Multiple chazals and rambams support that.Thats 20% of our nation.
    But even without the above you never responded to my main point why you are getting so hot under the collar for something that less than 1% of the jewish Nation are practising


  37. Well, instead of getting into an argument about what Biblical times were really like, let me just qualify my statement to be referring to Talmudic times and onwards.

    The novel mass open-ended kollel phenomenon bothers me for the reasons spelled out in great detail in the previous post. It may only be a small percentage of the nation who have this problem, but since I live in a town and country in which they are very prominent, and they represent the focal portion of Orthodox Jewry, it bothers me.


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