Friday, April 5, 2013

Fictitious History, Shlissel Challah, and the King of Birds

Three entirely unconnected items for today:

1) I briefly peeked at today's HaModia, which featured an interview with some charedi banker about the cuts in financial aid to charedim. He stated that while some people who were anyway planning to eventually work might start a little earlier, the strong community of Torah learners won't be affected, because it has always been the way of Torah to live in poverty, and economic factors have never affected this.

It simply boggles the mind how they can say such things. If we're talking about what has "always been the way," it's been that people work for a living rather then have a system of mass long-term kollel. This was because Chazal mandated working for a living and teaching one's child a profession. The modern reformation was only able to arise precisely because of the change in economic factors that enabled government aid.

2) This week, some people are baking challahs with keys. Personally, I prefer bagels with locks. You can read last year's post on shlissel challah at

3) Here's a video about the king of birds, the nesher, first in the list of non-kosher birds in this week's parashah. I put it together from a segment that I did for Animal Planet's Beasts of the Bible, along with some other footage that I shot in England and some amazing documentary footage. Enjoy! If you want to read a more technical discussion about the identity of the nesher, see my essay at


  1. I don't see a claim that there was always a system of mass long-term kollel. He is just referring to Avos 6:4 that those who study Torah have always been used to living in poverty.

  2. I presume you've read Orwell's "1984". You recall that when circumstances changed, the Ministry of Truth simply rewrote all the history books to make the new situation the way it had always been.
    The Chareidi press functions in a similar way. Yes, kollel for the masses is an innovation but since Chareidism forbids innovation history has been rewritten to eliminate that little contradiction.

  3. I agree with JS - the banker was likely refering to the numerous sources throughout the Gemara, Pirkei Avos, etc., that exhort one to minimize one's work and focus on spiritual pursuits, i.e., "Torah", however defined. (I realize this quite different from mass kollel.)

    Most Torah scholars historically followed this advice and were thus usually relatively poor.

    I think in your haste to criticize mass kollel, you (and the ever-excitable Mighty Garnel Ironheart) misinterpreted the bank employee.

  4. I am a new poster here. While I completely agree with you in regard to "shlissel challa", I would like to clarify how far you take this. On the one hand, a segula that has no basis most definitely fits the category of דרכי אמורי. However at some point you will need to draw the line somewhere. How do you deal with שילוח הקן and כיבוד אב ואם being a סגולה for long life? How about כל המשמח חתן וכלה?

  5. @Avi Lowenstein

    First, are you related to Rabbi Lowenstein of KSY?

    Second, those Mitzvos are not segulos for long life. The torah tells us the reward. It is not giving you a "segulah". It is also well-known that the reward can be tempered by one's other actions in life, such that a long life is not lived. Also, it's possible that one's life is supposed to be very short, but has been extended by performing those mitzvos. Since we don't know what's going on in Hashem's mind, we really have no idea. But we do know that they are not segulos.

  6. Avi Lowenstein:
    I think a clear distinction can and must be drawn between segulos of uncertain origin, and those (like you listed) which are mentioned by Chazal.

  7. Cholla / Kollel....Thank you for such a beautiful video explaining the Nesher.

  8. Adam (Manchester, UK)April 7, 2013 at 3:12 AM

    Come on, lighten up everyone! Isn't schlissel challah just a bit of a laugh?

  9. Thanks for the brilliant post but in a different sense that most people may think.
    Rabbi Slifkin is perhaps one of the biggest critics of the Haredi world today, yet in his view the biggest problem facing Haredi Judaism today is.....young men forgoing a comfortable lifestyle in order to learn Torah!
    Dear God, some communities have major problems with drugs, others with immorality but look at your nation Almighty God, from the pen of its biggest critic their problem is they learn to much Torah!
    Mi Ke'amcha Yisroel

  10. I think you're being too literal with the use of the word, "always". If you go back far enough, no behavior has "always" been the norm. I would have no trouble understanding his statement as referring to the way the current generation or so (or a certain segment thereof) has "always" done things.

    There are legitimate criticisms to be made of hareidi society (as well as valuable things to learn from it). Picking on this careless, yet extremely common, misuse of the word "always" is not one of them.

  11. "....Dear God, some communities have major problems with drugs, others with immorality but look at your nation Almighty God, from the pen of its biggest critic their problem is they learn to much Torah!
    Mi Ke'amcha Yisroel"

    Whats the point of learning Torah full time, or even part time if they support themselves doing it through dishonest and ethically questionable business practices?

    The first question we are asked in the Bet din Shel Ma'alaleh after we die is did we conduct our business honestly, ONLY after that are we asked if we set time aside for torah study. Seems to me that chareidim have their priorities

  12. Somewhat off topic comment on schlissel challah-Have you or anyone with whom you are familiar ever discussed the recent origins of costumes on purim and the responsa? Had a recent discussion with someone and I've never heard anyone discuss this


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