Thursday, May 2, 2013

Kollel Guys vs. Lions; Plus, Some Announcements


Some people want to read critiques of guys in kollel, others want to read about lion attacks in light of Torah/science. How about a post that combines both?

In the previous post, we saw a reference to the following verse:
[Where is] the lion that tore prey for his cubs, and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his lairs with prey, and his dens with mangled flesh? (Nachum 2:13)
Although this verse appears as part of a metaphor, metaphors are intended to be genuine, i.e. to reflect actual facts. Furthermore, the Gemara certainly takes it as expressing facts about lion hunting.

But, as one reader pointed out, lions do not in fact hunt for their cubs and lionesses. It's the lionesses who do all the work!

This is yet another example of the same phenomenon that appears with Scriptural descriptions of hares and hyraxes chewing cud, dew falling from the heavens, the heart and kidneys as housing the mind, and the sky as a solid dome. As Rambam says with regard to Yechezekel's account of the heavens, which Rambam saw as scientifically inaccurate, prophesy appears via the worldview of the prophet. Or, to use another phrase: Dibra Torah k'lashon bnei adam, "the Torah speaks in the language of man."

But this is not enough. There always has to be an actual plausible reason why the errant belief arose. Why was it believed that lions do the hunting for the pride, if in fact it is the lionesses that do it?

The answer is obvious. It's because in human society, it is the male who is bigger and stronger, and who provides for his family. Naturally, then, the assumption was that with lions, where the male is likewise bigger and stronger, it is the male who provides for the family.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I would imagine that in every one of the hundreds (thousands?) of cultures over the world, over the ages, it is the husband whose role it is to provide for the family. That's certainly the traditional Jewish model, as enshrined in the kesubah. Isn't one of the complaints against Pharaoh that he inverted these normal roles?

And yet, in contemporary charedi society, this role has been completely inverted! Boys (I don't think that they can be called men) enter marriage with the absolute expectation that their wives will be the ones who work! And the girls are taught that their job is to support their husbands! Furthermore, they consider this the lechatchilah approach, and regard anyone who does otherwise as a lesser Jew!

*   *   *   *   *

And now for something completely different - a few brief announcements regarding programs in different parts of the world:

CANADA: I'll be visiting Toronto and Montreal on a lecture tour for twelve days over Shavuos. Details will be posted here when my schedule is finalized. If you live in Toronto and are interested in attending a parlor meeting regarding the Encyclopedia and Museum, please be in touch. I also have some windows of time available for meetings, presentations, etc.

USA - NY: This year, I only have one Shabbos available in the NY region - August 2/3. If you are interested in arranging for me to be scholar-in-residence in your community, please be in touch.

USA - CA: I'll be running several programs in LA in August, at Beth Jacob, the West Coast Torah Center, and probably YINBH.

AFRICA: There are a very small number of places still available on my African Safari. Please visit the Torah in Motion website for more details. Come watch a lion hunt in action!

ISRAEL: Last but not least, remember that I run programs for groups at my mini-museum in my home. See here for more details.

35 comments:

  1. "And yet, in contemporary charedi society, this role has been completely inverted! Boys (I don't think that they can be called men) enter marriage with the absolute expectation that their wives will be the ones who work! And the girls are taught that their job is to support their husbands! Furthermore, they consider this the lechatchilah approach, and regard anyone who does otherwise as a lesser Jew!"

    Wrong, Satmar et. al. doesn't hold of the kollel system for exactly that reason.

    2nd Igros Moshe (don't have source but can be easilly looked up in Yad Moshe) that Torah Im DH today should be avoided where an alternate income is possible, because of the BEDIEVED situation today. (I know you might disagree on historical grounds, but that's rellative ).

    3rd Talmud compares Torah greatnss Lions, they may fend for the familly spiritually:).

    PS MALBIM understands this verse as having nothiong to do with a lion fending for his familly:

    "אריה", ואיך נעשה שם עתה האכזריות הזה "שהאריה טורף את גורותיו", ר"ל שהמלך הרג את ילדיו הקטנים, והאריה "מחנק ללבאותיו" שצוה לחנק את נשיו שהם הלביאות. כי נתחנקו ע"י העשן, "וימלא טרף חוריו ומעונותיו טרפה", מה שטרף את נשיו קורא טרפה בלשון נקבה ומה שטרף את גוריו קורא טרף בלשון זכר, ומצייר שהנשים דרו במעונות והגורים שכנו בחורים קטנים, (כמשל האריה) ר"ל שהילדים היו בחדרים קטנים ומלא אותם טרף, ונשיו היו בארמנותיו וימלא אותם טרפה, הנשמע כזאת?

    Z ZIG

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  2. 1) So I wasn't talking about Satmar.

    2) How do you define "today"?

    3) You're joking, right?

    4) Malbim is irrelevant, read the post carefully.

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  3. It can theoretically be read as a criticism of Nineveh, that the lion did not provide for his family and instead let the burden fall on others: which led to Nineveh's downfall.

    This would solve the problem of the lion not actually be the one who hunts--the writer understood that the lion does not hunt and is using said metaphor of the strongest not fending for his family as a problem within the society.

    Merely putting this out there.

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  4. I'm not sure the premise is correct, that the metaphor has to reflect a true reality to be a metaphor. If Rashi and Radak are correct, this is a lamentation about the downfall of kings, and so that certainly was male-oriented. The mashal is used for the nimshal, not really to be an accurate description in and of itself.

    Secondly, this video indicates that males also come along on the hunt, and the children as well. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wwt1ioiqMgQ

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  5. Women libbers (women's liberation) are scratching their heads about whether or not to admire the Haredi society.

    As just an amateur, I agree with Rabbi Slifkin about men working and women taking care of the young being the norm in human cultures.

    About a year ago or so I read a fascinating book called "Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human" by Richard Wrangham. (Warning: do not approach this book if evolution bothers you.)

    Big aside:
    The central idea of the book is that fire freed man's time to pursue other activities. This was because not only did fire provide heat and warmth and defense against animals, but it enabled man to cook his food. Cooking made meat, with its huge supply of calories and nutrition, available to man's weak digestive system. (It also enabled the digestive system to get weaker and for the brain to grow.) Very many plants were also rendered digestible. Now man had more free time to pursue culture and could feed a large and hungry brain.

    ****************

    Two other things that Wrangham points out in his book:

    (1) Virtually every human society that has ever existed on the planet is organized such that men go out and hunt and the women take care of the ("nest") home. This was a kind of contract between males and females in virtually every society.

    (2) Wrangler found that virtually every human society had a very strong cultural, religious, and societal prohibition on (close) incest.

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  6. -1) So I wasn't talking about Satmar.

    It's not just Satmar this is not the only time you make wild generalizations about Chareidim. The following statements are a wild generalization.

    "Boys enter marriage with the absolute expectation that their wives will be the ones who work! And the girls are taught that their job is to support their husbands! Furthermore, they consider this the lechatchilah approach, and regard anyone who does otherwise as a lesser Jew!"

    =2) How do you define "today"?

    My point is the kollel argument has not to do with men's general role

    =3) You're joking, right?

    My point was symbolism shows men are suppose to fend which can manifest itself differently in different situations.

    =4) Malbim is irrelevant, read the post carefully.

    Why he learns the משל not only נמשל differently.

    PS In "Thinking Aloud" the Rav states house chores used to be so heavy women didn't have free time, so another reason today's different.

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  7. As I recall, there are societies in the Asia/Pacific region and in Africa where most of the work is done by women, with the men doing little other than hunting. I think this may be mainly in polygamous societies.

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  8. who is a charediMay 3, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    Why don't you ever critisise Yeshivah for the masses? Why only Kolel?

    I am sure you can muster many sources to support a position that Yeshivah learning for the masses is a relatively modern, unrationalist belief incompatible with traditional orthodoxy.

    Is your lack of criticism perhaps because the DL community also support the principle of Yeshivah?

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  9. As usual you never give the full picture.
    The Halacha in Eben Haezer states that if one makes a tenaai in the kesuba with the agreement of the woman everything is valid. So if he tells her during the dating he wants to be a long time learner and she accepts, it is no different than if he would tell her of a disability which prevents him from working and will force her to work instead of him and she accepts.
    But the above is really irrevelent, you see kollel guys (and i used to be one) do support their wives! They do bring home a pay check albeit a small one!
    I understand your hatred towards bnei torah may be running very high, but i dont think the worlwide web is a forum to let it out.
    Perhaps if instead you would speak to a proffesional you could relieve some of your buit up tension.

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  10. The following statements are a wild generalization.

    "Boys enter marriage with the absolute expectation that their wives will be the ones who work! And the girls are taught that their job is to support their husbands! Furthermore, they consider this the lechatchilah approach, and regard anyone who does otherwise as a lesser Jew!"


    It's not a "wild" generalization. It is a fair generalization. This is the norm for virtually everyone at Lakewood, Mir, Ponevezh, and all the other charedi Litvishe yeshivos.

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  11. Why don't you ever critisise Yeshivah for the masses? Why only Kolel?

    Because yeshivah does good and it doesn't do any harm.

    Is your lack of criticism perhaps because the DL community also support the principle of Yeshivah?

    No, it's because it doesn't do any harm.

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  12. The Halacha in Eben Haezer states that if one makes a tenaai in the kesuba

    Great, so you have a technical loophole to avoid contravening the letter of the law, while completely subverting the traditional and preferred approach. Is that what your Judaism is about?

    kollel guys (and i used to be one) do support their wives! They do bring home a pay check albeit a small one!

    Nobody is supporting their families on $500 a month!

    your hatred towards bnei torah

    Do you hate secular or reform Jews? Do you think that their way of life is deeply misguided?

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  13. Is your lack of criticism perhaps because the DL community also support the principle of Yeshivah?

    "No, it's because it doesn't do any harm."

    It in fact has done much harm to those either unprepared by it for challenges the outside world present, and some of the principles that it has taught are false, or twisted out of their original intent eg: evolution, lack of financial integrity, and scorn for secular studies. True, not all Yeshivot are like that. But when you think of the word "Yeshiva", this is the image that most people have, a xenophobic, and purposeful denial of hard scientific fact, and a general disdain for non-Jews, non-orthodox Jews, and oh, any Jew who doesn't fit their exact hashkafa, or philosophical weltanschauung.

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  14. He was asking about DL yeshivos.

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  15. Who is a charediMay 3, 2013 at 3:05 PM

    I was talking about the concept of 'Yeshivah'.

    Your critisisms are based on today's chareidi society being totally incompatible with what you consider to be authentic rationalist judaism as promoted by the Rishonim.

    That worldview has no place for Yeshivah for the masses, of whatever shape or form.

    And some DL yeshivas do have extremist views of one sort or another that cause 'harm' (another undefined term that can mean whatever you want it to mean).

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  16. Your critisisms are based on today's chareidi society being totally incompatible with what you consider to be authentic rationalist judaism as promoted by the Rishonim.

    That is not why I am criticizing them! On the contrary, I have always said that I understand why charedim do not follow the rationalist Rishonim!

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  17. Oh, and here I was thinking you were going to suggest bringing back the games of the Roman colliseum and using Chareidim as the contestants...

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  18. AryehS:
    "I'm not sure the premise is correct, that the metaphor has to reflect a true reality to be a metaphor."

    That premise is the premise of Rav Kahana:
    From Shabbat 63a:
    מ"ט דר"א דאמר תכשיטין הן לו דכתיב (תהילים מה) חגור חרבך על ירך גבור הודך והדרך א"ל רב כהנא למר בריה דרב הונא האי בדברי תורה כתיב א"ל אין מקרא יוצא מידי פשוטו א"ר כהנא כד הוינא בר תמני סרי שנין והוה גמירנא ליה לכוליה תלמודא ולא הוה ידענא דאין מקרא יוצא מידי פשוטו עד השתא מאי קמ"ל דליגמר איניש והדר ליסבר:

    Originally he thought that since the pasuk in Tehillim was a metaphor referring to divrei Torah, it need not be true on a literal level, so we cannot learn that a sword is a tachshit in terms of Shabbos. But then he learned that ain mikra yotzei miydei peshuto, that even where the intent is a metaphor, that does not mean that the literal level of the metaphor is not true. (And that, BTW, is the true basic meaning of ain mikra, before being modified by others.)

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  19. An emotional issue this, I see. Still, Rabbi Slifkin has been sticking mostly to the material realities affecting the Haredi world, such as their ability to function in the economy and as citizens in the Jewish nation state and yet all this distraction about hatred and built-up tensions. Goodness.

    My two cents: The situation is indeed tied to economics and interactions with the larger society. To an outsider the Haredi world can in some ways apppear as monastic system. It certainly has been behaving so. The most prominent feature of such is the need to "park" large numbers of economically unproductive surplus males who cannot join the economy or larger society for a number of reasons. An effective system if it's affordable and provides useful services, or services perceived as useful to those who are paying for it. This worked ..for a limited time and not always well or smoothly... in parts of Europe in the 18th, 19th and first half of the twentieth century as it kept young men off the streets and out of trouble, but became economically unsustainable in a rapidly changing world. Reviving this system and expecting it to survive in Israel or in the developed world worked as long as there was surplus cash and small numbers of Haredim who could count on a large pool of well-off supporters. Alas, as in the pre-War days, money is tight and the Haredim have multiplied.

    The conflicts with the Haredi phenomenon manifest themselves in religious and cultural terms, with plenty of heated politics and increasingly obscurantist theologising, but the driving force is Jewry's changing economic and cultural reality. To see how this drama will play itself out, I'd suggest looking at the various historical examples of dissolutions of monasteries as in Britain, Protestant Europe, China And Japan. Plenty of varied material there for rich speculation and informed projections.

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  20. Shorter RNS:

    Kollel guys are like lions. You're invited to my lectures.

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  21. Your critisisms are based on today's chareidi society being totally incompatible with what you consider to be authentic rationalist judaism as promoted by the Rishonim.

    That worldview has no place for Yeshivah for the masses, of whatever shape or form.


    Can you give a source for that? I see the Rambam lamenting the "ignorance of the masses" and encourage everyone to grab the Keter Torah.

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  22. Correct me if I am wrong, but I would imagine that in every one of the hundreds (thousands?) of cultures over the world, over the ages, it is the husband whose role it is to provide for the family. That's certainly the traditional Jewish model, as enshrined in the kesubah. Isn't one of the complaints against Pharaoh that he inverted these normal roles?

    You are kinda, sorta right in some ways, not so much in others. In hunter-gatherer societies it varies, but the general rule is that women actually produce the majority of the calories. Men do the more strength-intense large game hunting. In many West African agricultural societies women would do the farming. Men would do the herding. Who produced more is a tricky question. But in all cases both sexes worked and worked hard to provide for the household.

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  23. Forgive my ignorance, but in the last post, "When Lions Attack", weren't those male lions doing the killing?

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  24. Male lions hunt. But they don't hunt for lionesses and cubs.

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  25. I agree that kollel for the massess is not viable in the long term and there will come a breaking point when more bnei torah will have to go out and join the workforce.
    But if there are donors whom are happy to support those in full time learning well frankly why not?
    No one is asking you to support them, but people like myself who have matured and think wisely about their money, have come to the conclusion that supporting an avreich bent over a ketzos is frankly the best investment a jew can make.

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  26. You're quite correct, Mr Gambiera, hunter-gathering was mostly gathering, with occasional small game hunting and collection of grubs and aquatic critters by women. These could supply up to 70 percent (and in tough times 100%) of the band's caloric intake, although one shouldn't dismiss the importance of even moderate quantities of animal proteins and fats to a band's overall health, vigour and long term prospects. Judaism, though, seems to be an unambiguous rejection, on multiple levels, of that ancient common past which represents 99 percent of our human history. The tale of Yaakov and Essav springs to my mind. In a way, Judaism is a surge into "modernity," beginning with pastoralism, and agrarianism, urban specialization with its craft, bureaucracy and commerce based industries. Among these changes, the role of the man as the provider was indeed enshrined in Jewish tradition, as the Rabbi argues. Quite unambiguously too, which does indeed render attempts to circumvent this tradition through lame technicalities rather comical, if not outright insulting.

    As for the rest of the world and the bulk of our human past, not to mention the animal kingdom, these do not have a "vote" if we accept the notion that one of the features of Judaism is a conscious and selective separation from other cultures, the ancient Animist past, animalia and even Nature itself. But I trespass onto theological, hashkafa issues here, which I'd rather leave to others.

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  27. Nowadays most of us don’t have to do hunting for food or involve in hard manual labor to make living. Therefore, there is no reason whatsoever to insist that men necessarily have to provide for the family. A women can work in an office not worse than a man.If her husband meantime is occupied with Torah study, and both are happy, and the man gets reward for the study and his wife gets reward for letting him study, why this even should be a subject of a discussion?
    P.S. Sorry if my post was submitted multiple times. I saw no confirmation it went thru.

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  28. No one is asking you to support them, but people like myself who have matured and think wisely about their money, have come to the conclusion that supporting an avreich bent over a ketzos is frankly the best investment a jew can make.

    Some people have come to that conclusion. Others prefer to focus their tzedaka dollars on the poor. I haven't bent over a ketzos in quite a while, but I think (and I'm not shooting for snark here - i just write poorly) that the involuntary poor are the intended recipients of tzedaka, making that a better investment.

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  29. @Warren
    "But if there are donors whom are happy to support those in full time learning well frankly why not?"

    1. We disagree with your conclusion. It's a perversion of Torah-true Judaism and are duty-bound to speak out against it. (In the same vane that Agudah feels that need to speak out against the left wing Orthodox groups.)

    2. Rabbi Slifkin, while perhaps addressing the entire kollel system, probably has mostly in mind his situation in Israel where avreichim in kollel are largely funded by taxpayer subsidies. If the most recent election is any indication, the donors have spoken and they are not pleased.

    3. As you already have acknowledged, those who want to sit and learn will, (or have already, IMO) surpass what willing and able donors like yourself will happily support.

    4. Even if there was sufficient wealth to go around, there is still a problem with a certain group deciding it's their entitlement and way of life.

    5. As long as it's not personal to you, we're entitled to have our conversation, analyzing the system, and drawing our own conclusion about what are worthwhile causes in a frum community. You don't have to agree with our conclusions, but don't dissuade us from making our own analysis.

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  30. Warren - Your sentiments are understandable. However, please remember that by supporting the Kollel guy:
    1 - You're consigning his children to poverty, especially if the Kollel guy educates his children to the same ideal.
    2 - Said Kollel guy will not be paying taxes, meaning, among other things, that he will be taking health insurance money from the government, w/o having contributed to the fund from which the money is taken. Because he is taking from but not contributing to the pot, certain medicines will not be available to sick people, many of whom are contributing to that pot.
    3 - Said Kollel guy will need financial help from his parents, in the event that any unexpected expenses come up (and they will). This often means less help from his parents for his siblings.
    4 - Said Kollel guy wil not be able to help his siblings deal with their parents, when they reach old age. He will apologetically say that he just doesn't have that kind of money.

    And on and on.

    I'm not saying that everyone needs to spend their lives making as much money as they can. But there's a point where the decision to be "mistapek b'muat" makes someone a real burden on his family and on society.

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  31. Mr Rozenblatt, methinks you may be forgetting a tiny little detail, namely those little, loud, demanding, vulnerable, time consuming, utterly dependent and fairly expensive beings we refer to as children. Sound arguments have been made that they should be our primary concern and targets of investment no matter how we turn the scriptures. Alas, the larger version of the model, the kollel guy, competes for similar care-taking services and even a bigger "investment," as typically he does not cook, launder or clean up for himself, much less for the whole brood he nominally leads. He also eats more, requires more expensive garb, sometimes acquires costly habits, often seems too preoccupied to take on mundane tasks and while this may be a matter of subjective aesthetics, is arguably not nearly as cute and lovable as the little versions, a hard reality contributing to flashpoints of family conflict.

    One would think that a wife who can put in eight to ten hours at an office in a job which actually supports the entire household, who can look after children day and night (dash it, they rarely cooperate by signing off nights), cater to a presumably tired husband worn from the rigours of study, not to mention to remember her own basic needs, may be a bit hard to find. Or to keep.

    So, perhaps a revival of polygamy may be the answer? A pride of multi-tasking lionesses with wide-ranging and transferable skill-sets covering all aspects of supporting a family with a Torah scholar as its figure head? Creative suggestions will be required as the financial situation in Israel undergoes a tectonic shift.




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  32. > perhaps a revival of polygamy may be the answer

    There's a joke that's been going around.

    A Kollel guy sent out a Heter Meah Rabbanim.

    Because he couldn't afford to live on the salary of just one wife.

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  33. BTW, R' Natan, I don't see what you do as Charedi bashing. The former is not hard to find, and I resent it greatly.

    What you do is call them out on inconsistencies that get in the way of their own stated goals - doing Ratzon Hashem as defined by the Torah, in Shas and Poskim, with intellectual honesty, Emunat Chachamim of all previous generations, and adherence to "VeAsita HaYashar veHaTov".

    I do not perceive it as bitter or nasty.

    May Hashem give you Hatzlacha, and may we all improve our own communities to do Retzon Hashem as well.

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  34. Let's pretend that we were among the first thousand people to receive Nachum's prophecy. Let's say that at least one person in the group was knowledgeable enough about lions and lionesses to know which of the sexes hunts for its cubs. (safe assumption?) He goes up to Nachum and says, "Umm, Nachum, you've made a little boo boo there." How do you think Nachum would respond?
    Would he say, "Hey, that's the message I got from God. I'm not about to change it." Or perhaps, "Even assuming you're right, and I know you're more knowledgeable about lions than I am, it's too late to make any changes." Or perhaps, "listen, I'm trying to reinforce the point that it's the Jewish *men* who should be providing for their families. Thus, I need to let the facts slide here."?
    What do you think he'd respond?

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  35. actually, the ketubah is completely meaningless today.

    i think it should either be completely redone, or abolished.

    your example is just one major reason why.

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