Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What Are Those Quoters Thinking?

(Note: This post is a mirror-image of an article published by Eytan Kobre in Mishpachah magazine. You have to read the original article in order to understand the tone of this post.)

One fascinating aspect of the writings of Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin ztz”l is that he published many essays addressing political and social issues of the day, setting forth a clear Torah hashkafah on how to relate to such phenomena as the State of Israel, anti-Semitism, the secular American Jewish establishment, and postwar Germany. He based his views on these, and many more matters, on an extremely wide range of sources, including episodes in Tanach and later Jewish history, on the statements of Chazal in Shas and midrashim, and of gedolei Torah he had known.

Looking at Rav Henkin’s deeply sourced and compellingly argued essays, one can’t help but contrast them with, l’havdil, what often passes for Torah-based arguments in contemporary discourse.

In the recent controversy over the draft of bnei Torah, for example, one comes across articles in which the same handful of sources are recycled endlessly to support the innovation of mass kollel. There’s the Mishnaic dictum of Talmud Torah kenegged kulam, and that hardy perennial, the Rambam (Hilchos Shmittah V'Yovel), who writes that anyone can choose the life of a Levite.

One must really wonder what people who quote these sources as discussion-enders are thinking. If one has a question about how to reconcile a mishnah with the practice of multitudes of very observant Jews for centuries, then by all means pose it, earnestly and humbly, and seek out an answer. But these sources are cited triumphantly as conclusory evidence against the position of Chazal, the Rishonim, and the greatest halachic authorities right up until the charedi rabbonim post-WWII, who not only permitted but highly encouraged people to learn a trade and work for a living.

It’s impossible to even imagine another field of highly complex knowledge in which those defending a revolutionary approach would be so foolish and so lacking in humility as to pronounce every acknowledged traditional master of the discipline mistaken for having missed a basic piece of information. But let the conversation turn to something Torah-related, and it’s the Wild West, with every man and his Judaic six-shooter for himself.

Rabbi Aryeh Zev Ginsberg recently wrote of having accompanied Rav Elyashiv ztz”l to and from a funeral, with pen and pad in hand to record the various questions people would inevitably ask. In the course of this 40-minute experience, Rav Elyashiv answered more than 70 sh’eilos, exhibiting his breathtaking mastery of the gamut of Torah. And Rav Elyashiv strongly supported mass kollel. Yet we are to believe, it seems, that this somehow radically alters the very history of our people and the very statements of Chazal and the Rishonim. Don’t those who fling the Gedolim as a shtempel kashrus know that there are Gedolim who disagree strongly with the modern system of mass kollel, but who are afraid to speak their mind, as Jonathan Rosenblum has written? Do they not know that there are complex social forces mean that attitudes to basic issues can change and be distorted, even amongst great Torah scholars? Do they not know the history of the Jewish People, in which many great Torah scholars were embroiled in disputes in which they each considered their equally distinguished opponents to be fundamentally in error? That they attributed such fundamental error to the ability of sophisticated Torah learning to resolve all contradictions between behavior and sources via the drawing of subtle distinctions? This is precisely why halachic practice has always been rooted in the values and rulings of Shas and Rishonim, not in contemporary mores that go against mesorah.

Let’s look, for example, at Eytan Kobre. In an article printed in the latest issue of Mishpachah, Mr. Kobre claims "the Kesef Mishneh, on the page alongside the Rambam; the Rema (Yoreh Dei’ah 246:21); the Shach (ibid.); the Aruch HaShulchan (Yoreh Dei’ah 246:40-42); and Igros Moshe (Yoreh Dei’ah 2:116) all rule that one may, without any hesitation, receive funding to learn Torah full-time."

Now, Eytan Kobre is being presented as the Voice of Torah Judaism. He is, after all, someone who studied for several years in beis medrash and beyond, and presumably knows how to research a basic halachic issue. Here, then, is what he could have discovered if he had actually looked at the very sources that he himself is quoting, let alone the countless sources in Chazal and the Rishonim that strongly oppose the notion of not learning a trade or working and instead relying on communal support:

The Kesef Mishneh indeed observed that Rambam's prohibition on Torah scholars receiving payment was not shared by other authorities, and permits a Torah scholar to receive funds. However, he specifies that this is only in a case where he is teaching students, acting as a rabbinic judge, or studying in order to take on a teaching/judging role (although elsewhere he appears to be more lenient). How on earth does Mr. Kobre describe this as him saying that "one may, without any hesitation, receive funding to learn Torah full-time"?

The Rema first says that a person should work to support himself, leaving Torah study to other times of day and night, and that it is very praiseworthy to be self-sufficient. Which is not at all surprising, since Chazal taught that Torah study should be accompanied by derech eretz, and in numerous places stressed the importance of being self-sufficient: “A person should hire himself out for alien work rather than requiring assistance from others”; “The man who is self-sufficient is greater than the one who fears Heaven”; etc. The Rema continues to note that someone who decides to busy themselves with Torah and live off charity rather than working has desecrated God's Name and brought the Torah into disrepute. He adds that Torah which is not accompanied by work leads to sin and theft (presumably because the Torah scholar/student is incapable of making a living via honest means). Similarly, the Rosh, discussing someone whose Torah is his profession, such that he is exempt from paying various taxes, defines this person as someone who only takes time away from his studies in order to earn a livelihood, “which is his obligation, for the study of Torah with derech eretz is beautiful, and if the Torah is not accompanied by work, it will end in neglect and will cause sin." This reflects the normative position amongst the Rishonim in Ashkenaz, where financing Torah study was unheard of; virtually all Torah scholars were self-supporting, and even financing Torah teaching was only reluctantly permitted by some.

So far, Rema has been unequivocal that it is forbidden and evil to take money for Torah rather than to be self-supportive (except for those who are physically incapable of working, and who are allowed to receive payment for the Torah that they teach.) But at this point he introduces a lenient view, based on R. Shimon b. Tzemach Duran (Rashbatz), that permits Torah scholars to receive funding. Note, however, that Rashbatz specifically limits this to Torah scholars functioning in the role of community rabbi. In the referenced responsum, he argues that since the Kohen Gadol receives material support from the community, how much more so should a Torah scholar be entitled to such support; after all, he is equally performing a service for the community. Rema writes that “a person important to the community may accept money from it... without violating the prohibition against benefiting from the Torah, for he is honoring the Torah, not using it." He is not talking about a kollel student!

However, Rema proceeds to note that there are those who are even more lenient and permit even students to receive financial support, in order to strengthen Torah study. So there we have it; after stating the primary view, that it is forbidden and wrong for Torah scholars to receive funding, then noting a "yesh omrim," an alternate lenient view that it is permissible for rabbis to receive funding, we finally have a further lenient view that even students may receive funding. However, Rema notes that it is still preferable for Torah students to be self-supportive, if possible. How on earth does Mr. Kobre summarize all this as him saying that "one may, without any hesitation, receive funding to learn Torah full-time"?

Now let us move on to the next source cited by Mr. Kobre, the Shach. He allows a Rosh Yeshivah or Av Beis Din to accept gifts. He says nothing whatsoever about kollel students receiving funding to learn Torah. How on earth does Mr. Kobre summarize all this as saying that "one may, without any hesitation, receive funding to learn Torah full-time"?

Now let us move on to the next source cited by Mr. Kobre, the Aruch HaShulchan. He, too, makes it very clear that he is talking about voluntary communal support of Torah teachers. He does not permit Torah students to receive communal funds, and does not even permit teachers to demand support; he describes Rambam's opposition as being to Torah scholars who try to force the community to support them (an apt description of the modern mass-kollel system). How on earth does Mr. Kobre summarize all this as saying that "one may, without any hesitation, receive funding to learn Torah full-time"?

Igros Moshe is Mr. Kobre's final source for those who wish to receive money for their studies. However, that has little bearing on the normative position over the ages. R. Moshe's primary sources are referring to Torah teachers, not Torah students. And he admits that his license may well be based upon emergency measures, rather than expressing the original laws and priorities. And one cannot necessarily extrapolate from the state of Torah-emergency in 1964 to the situation in the twenty-first century, when there are tens of thousands of people in kollel. Furthermore, Rav Moshe is only addressing a case where the money is being offered - this has nothing to do with whether it is okay to avoid learning a trade and to insist that others support you. Which clearly goes against Chazal and the Rishonim.

Can this fellow Eytan Kobre truly be blissfully unaware of all this, and of the normative approach of Torah Judaism throughout the ages until just a few decades ago, or is he indeed aware of the relevant halachic sources and is engaging in intentional falsification of Torah to mislead the public? Either way, hostile or ignorant, it doesn’t bode well.

(If you are reading this post by email, please continue to scroll down, in order to see the previous post on hawking.)

64 comments:

  1. Of course he's aware of those sources. When it comes to politics, never ascribe to ignorance that which is reasonably explained by obvious bias.

    Charedim don't follow the same Torah as the rest of us Jews. It really shouldn't be a surprise that they don't hold from little things like Rishonim who don't agree with them. Those Rishonim aren't a part of their Mesorah. Of course it's not really that simple. Only the opinions that don't support their desired mode of life are excised. They really aren't much different than Reform Judaism. It's only a matter of degree.

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  2. Avi, I hope you're aware that "Only the opinions that don't support their desired mode of life are excised" is a malady that everyone has.

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  3. "... and that hardy perennial, the Rambam (Hilchos Shmittah V'Yovel), who writes that anyone can choose the life of a Levite."


    An apt example. The major meforshim and gedolim have interpreted this "halacha" of the Rambam as referring to Torah scholars who are not supported by public funds. This is the opinion of the רדב"ז, מעשה רוקח, מהרי"ץ חיות, Rav Ahron Kotler, and probably Rav Chaim Kanievsky.
    A reasonable conclusion would be that as soon as Torah scholar takes money, they have to serve in the army. (Note that in any case it could be they have to serve anyway. I'm not aware of a clear source that definitively proves that שבט לוי or תלמידי חכמים are exempt from a מלחמת מצוה)

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  4. Brooklyn Refugee SheigitzAugust 13, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    keep these coming.
    One must remember that Eytan Kobre is part of a large group which is effectively a set of overalapping cults. So like most cults they indoctrinate and ignore inconvenient truths. They will also resort to violence - which is why we are seeing increased instances of organized intimidation and violence in the charedi world

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  5. Kobre may or may not have seen the original sources but even if he has he's relying on YOU not having seen them and taking him at his word.
    "Daas Torah" means "You're too stupid so we'll do the thinking for you"

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  6. After reading the linked article, I foolishly posted on the bottom (Im looking forward to never seeing the comment again).

    My comment there ran along the line of: "Your well-written post almost effortlessly turned all of Torah into a complete relativistic, subjective farce (God forbid)". Sure, any concrete Torah source can be re-contextualized and re-ified to support someones notions; just walk into any Halakhic egalitarian Yeshiva.

    Also, his baldly elitist tone arrogating to be a part of the only community qualified for text-study is a clear example of one of the major symptoms of his community nowadays. Ugh.

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  7. You make a good "glass houses" argument. But his premise (if not his conclusion) is sound - an issue as large as this cannot be boiled down to a single Rambam or Mishna. Your post makes some good points, but they are not what are usually thrown around when discussing the issue.

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  8. I saw the article , and what struck me was the arrogant tone-as if Kobre was saying ` if you people would learn more, maybe even go to kollel yourselves, you would understand how ignorant you are.`

    I`m not a big learner, but the counter-quotes he offered don`t mention the Rambam`s position , or why it`s suddenly irelevant . The Rambam is just brushed aside .

    And yes , the Gemarah is filled with references to chazal who worked hard, without stopping even to talk to answer shaylos. There is no hint of public support for learning .

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  9. I don't have the strength to detail for you all the debates I had with charedi rabbis when I was trying to get myself out of yeshiva (at age 30) to go back to work so I could eat and maybe even get married. I needed this article 25 years ago.

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  10. Masterful!

    Interesting how they reject LWMO for doing things "within halacha" by relying on some minority opinions, when they rely on minority kulos to justify the entire structure of their community.

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  11. You're being disingenuous, Natan, and I suspect you know it, too. Dov has staked his political position on the fact that Rambam is "a thousand percent" correct. Kobre doesn't need to show that he's completely right, only that Dov is not. He does so by citing sources that show the issue to be more complicated than the hackneyed Rambam. You show that Kobre's position isn't simple either, but that accomplishes nothing, since he doesn't care whether we hold like the Rambam, as long as we don't force him and his peeps to do so.

    So this blog post is very clever and all, and I'm no fan of Kobre, but its argument is very weak.

    I will also ask you, Natan, half in jest and half in the spirit of Elul: if you are convinced that the Rambam is right, do you plan on refunding to the government all of the money that it spent on your yeshiva and kollel education?

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  12. Dov might give Rambam as a name, but Dov's position is really the normative view of the Rishonim, not the extreme view of Rambam (who doesn't even approve of taking money for teaching).

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  13. Two things:
    1. I'd love to know how it's humanly possible that R' Elyashiv answered 70 questions in 40 minutes.

    2. How does Eytan Kobre find the chutzpah to refer to Dov Lipman as "Yair Lapid’s handpicked choice to fill the big, black yarmulke-wearer slot on Yesh Atid’s Knesset list"?
    He can name Yair Lapid but he cannot even name the person he's arguing with, the person whom he grudgingly admits is an ordained rabbi?

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  14. Great post. So good in fact that I wrote my take on it in my own post today.

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  15. Hello, Reb Natan,
    I hope you are doing well. I can't comment on the specific issue at hand because I have not done the necessary research. But re the gavra, I know Rabbi Eytan Kobre very well. He learned in our Yeshiva of Far Rockaway kollel and is a friend. He is not just a "fellow." He is a talmid chacham. One need not agree with him, indeed, he may be totally wrong; my only point here is that he is a "bar hachi."
    Avi Goldstein, Far Rockaway

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    Replies
    1. Then the Rabbis that gave him smicha must be ashamed at his weak scholarship. Oh wait - smicha?

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  16. That's why I wrote at the beginning of the post that "You have to read the original article in order to understand the tone of this post." I was merely copying Kobre's article, in which he referred to MK Rabbi Lipman as a "fellow." What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

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  17. Moshe Dick says:
    I first read the article by Rabbi Eytan Kobre before adding my comment and I agree with many of the other posters that it reeks of arrogance and hubris. Without responding to every item (Rabbi Slifkin has done this very effectively) may I point out that the Chassidic world has not accepted his view even today- the vast majority of chassidim do not stay in kollel forever and a good perventage does not go to kollel at all. It is well known that many of the most ultra-orthodox rebbes,like the Satmarer rebbe, the Lubavitcher rebbe and others,were dead set againt this newfangled approach to Jewish life.It cannot br sustained and most people will not succeed in it.
    So, his is a minority view, prevalent only amongst the so-called Litvishe world and, dare I say it, the real reason is money. It is always about money. There are thousands of jobs that can only exist when this world is fed and financed by the rest of the nation. It is a parasitic exsitence and they will never be able to make that kind of money otherwise. Money, it is always the money.

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  18. Will you please scan the texts that you are reading?

    Unless we have variant texts, I just don’t know what you’re talking about, and I suppose the gedolei Torah of this and previous generations wouldn’t either.

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  19. It's interesting that Eytan Kobre would use R' Eliyahu Henkin as the premier example of using Torah hashkafah in deciding contemporary issues when if you actually read Rav Henkin's articles, he clearly states that after the creation of the State of Israel (he was opposed to its creation beforehand) one has an obligation to support it and even serve in its defense forces.

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  20. " However, he specifies that this is only in a case where he is teaching students, acting as a rabbinic judge, or studying in order to take on a teaching/judging role (although elsewhere he appears to be more lenient). How on earth does Mr. Kobre describe this as him saying that "one may, without any hesitation, receive funding to learn Torah full-time"? "

    The Kesef Mishna explicitly refers to "מורים ומלמדים".

    Regarding the Rema his Talmid the Levush follows the Yesh Omrim, I'm not sure about the Kelalim but I think Yesh Omrim at the end can be Ikkar.

    "Note, however, that Rashbatz specifically limits this to Torah scholars functioning in the role of community rabbi."
    See all his Teshuvvos there, he explicitly sanctions supporting תלמדים.

    The Shach quotes KM's מורים ומלמדים.

    "R. Moshe's primary sources are referring to Torah teachers, not Torah students" -- refuted above.

    "And he admits that his license may well be based upon emergency measures, rather than expressing the original laws and priorities. And one cannot necessarily extrapolate from the state of Torah-emergency in 1964 to the situation in the twenty-first century, when there are tens of thousands of people in kollel."

    Wrong, Rav Moshe clearly only refered to the "emergency" for a Kol Shekain ע"ש.

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  21. Even if there are two sides to whether it is permitted for someone to take money for learning Torah, that side of the equation is up to the learner to decide. If he found someone to pay him for any job, he should determine whether taking money for performing that task is in line with his understanding of halacha.

    What bothers me more is that the argument in Israel is not just that it's OK if they want to learn and get paid for it, but rather that the Israeli taxpayer should be forced to fund their learning, and the Israeli parent should be forced to send their sons to the army to defend their learning.

    I'm sure no one will object if a promising student, after his army service, finds a sponsor to pay him to study torah. Whether the country wants to continue to pay is up to the elected government to decide.

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  22. At the end of the day, no one has shown that it is permitted to force people to support you in any endeavor, much less Talmud Torah. Until then, I think it's a moot question whether one can take money in exchange for learning.

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  23. What is the difference between someone undertaking research in philosophy or history at University and being funded by people's taxes? With this new reality, which I am not sure existed at the time of the Rishonim etc, is there room to say that taking money to study the history of halacha, the philosophy of the talmud and judaism would now be permitted even by those that may have, many years ago prohibited it?

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  24. Sorry that was the KM explicitly states "לומדים ומלמדים"

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  25. What amazes me is that the Briskers also support mass kollel. The Briskers have placed special emphasis on the Rambam and are machmir like the Rambam on many issues even when everyone else disagrees with the Rambam. Yet in this case where the Rambam vehemently opposes taking money for learning they completely disregard the Rambam's shita.

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  26. Avi Goldstein,

    I know Kobre too. He is definitely just some "fellow." And for the way he talks about his fellow Jews, I would say he is even less than that.

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  27. BLUKE wrote:

    "What amazes me is that the Briskers also support mass kollel. The Briskers have placed special emphasis on the Rambam and are machmir like the Rambam on many issues even when everyone else disagrees with the Rambam. Yet in this case where the Rambam vehemently opposes taking money for learning they completely disregard the Rambam's shita."

    Brisk doesn't ALWAYS follow the Rambam. In fact in Brisk they quote Reb Chaim not too follow this Rambam on the basis of the KM quoting a consensus as disagreeing. It should also be noted that the KM almost always defends the Rambam too.

    Also it sould be noted Rav Yoshe Ber (Boston) also took money for teaching (quoted as such in a transcript in Thinking Aloud).

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  28. The Kesef Mishna explicitly refers to "מורים ומלמדים".

    Both words mean "teaching". How is that a proof regarding people being supported who are just learning for learnings sake?

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  29. The Rambam thing is just a side show. The real problem behind Kobre's letter is the "only we can interpret Torah" attitude. Unfortunately for Kobre and his world, the yeshivas have been a victim of their own success.* With Yeshiva being normative, huge numbers of working laymen are more knowledgeable in Torah than Rabbis and ESPECIALLY rosh yeshivas, most of whom only get their jobs because of marriage. I will grant that a professional rabbi will know more practical halacha, and a professional rebbi will know more vertlach or chakirahs. That is their job, after all. But there is infinitely more to Torah than just those two specfic subsets.

    As for the specific point of "answering shailos", since Kobre raised it - I second the commenter who observed its not humanly possibly to answer 70 questions in 40 minutes. If it happened, it means either the questions or the answers were meaningless. But to the point, the fiction behind the idea that only "great scholars" can answer shailas has long been exposed as false. Every week in my shul we receive a weekly bulletin in which business questions are raised and resolved. Many others to the same with Yore Deah type questions. While one has to be learned, it does not take any particular genius to answer a shailah. You just need the time of day and a good library. There are many, many people in Klal Yisrael capable of doing it.




    *Just like the DL community in America, whose numbers remain small because so many of them make aliyah.

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  30. I am not able to find your quote from the Rosh. I don't see it in Bava Basra first perek siman 26 where the Rosh discusses this, or in the Tur or Beis Yosef. The Rosh says there that talmid chacham is patur from taxes even if he has a small business to earn k'dei chayav; but he doesn't say there about it being "his obligation..."

    Thanks.

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  31. >>>>> Avrohom asked: What is the difference between someone undertaking research…..

    you really don’t see a difference? Then let me help you out.

    1) quantity of students. The people supported to do research in the arts or other “non-practical” disciplines are very, very limited in number. A tiny fraction of the supportive population. I understand that in Israel there are 60,000 students in kollel.

    2) willingness of the nation. The majority of taxpayers (I think) are willing to support some research in arts or related. What % of israel’s pop. thinks learning about “one ox beating up another ox” is a worthwhile undertaking to support.

    3) time limit. Pure support is limited to doctoral and fellowship work. After that one is expected to find a paying position (usually in teaching or other eductaion-related)

    4) research. Students in the arts and related are usually looking to add to mankind's knowledge. Nobody gets paid to just sit and read.

    5) productivity. Publish or perish. Their work is usually published and peer reviewed. How many soferim or chiddushim are being produced today. How mnay kollelniks are graded for what they learn?

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  32. I have long said that the Charedim are no different than the reform movement and in some ways worse. At least the reform movement was honest about the fact they were deviating from tradition.

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  33. I haven't had a chance to see all of your references inside, but what I did see troubles me greatly, as I'll explain.

    The Rema, for example, quotes those who permit taking money at great length including citing the view that it is normative (yes!) to take money as only a select few can manage to "learn & earn" and those who refrain from taking money are achieving a midas chasidus. He does not dismiss or diminish this view. The Rema notes that the source is the Rashbatz, as you noted.

    I did not see the Rashbatz inside and am relying on the Beis Yosef's quote. You wrote that "Rashbatz specifically limits this to Torah scholars functioning in the role of community rabbi" however the Rashbatz quoted by the Beis Yosef specifically includes chachomim and talmidim in his permissive approach and also the Beis Yosef clearly says it is proper to receive money (how else to understand his expression v'chen roi la'asot?)

    Are you claiming that the Rashbatz was misquoted by the Beis Yosef??

    Clearly, these sources explicitly find favor in accepting money.

    You write, "How on earth does Mr. Kobre summarize all this as him saying that "one may, without any hesitation, receive funding to learn Torah full-time"?

    Following an opinion cited by the Rema or following the Beit Yosef is something no one need apologize for, nor should anyone belittle someone for following this legitimate approach.

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  34. I'm just saying, it's kind of circular logic to argue against the kollel system because of the kollel system. What I mean to say:

    You say that there is no 21st century Torah emergency because there are tens of thousands of people in kollel. That is why you argue that Rav Moshe's teshuvah doesn't apply nowadays, so we can't have a kollel system.

    But without the kollel system, we would revert to an emergency. It is only because of the kollel system that there is no emergency.

    Circular, no?

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  35. @ Daniel Shain

    I believe that the Rosh R' Slifkin is referring to is in Teshuvos haRosh klal 15

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  36. Ben Altman said...
    " The Kesef Mishna explicitly refers to "מורים ומלמדים". "

    Both words mean "teaching".


    --It was a typo as I wrote above, I meant "לומדים ומלמדים", --

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  37. Didn't the rabbis if the early 20th century come from a culture in which rich father in laws supported studious soon in laws? Didn't rabbis henken, kook, kaminestsky, kannievsky, shach et al live spend periods of time of abject poverty? Didn't the old yishuv in the finest Lithuanian tradition live in deprivation? I suggest rabbi slifkin take an eastern European safari to the tethered goats and chickens roaming to this day between the wooden shacks of volozhin, Mir, and radin to get a feel for the culture charedim faithfully replicate today.

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  38. 'However, that has little bearing on the normative position over the ages.'

    I thought r. moshe was saying the normative position was to take, but then I am not sure what normative means. it is a big word for me.

    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=919&st=&pgnum=188

    משום
    שכל
    חכמי
    ישראל
    קודם
    זמן
    רבגו
    ושוריו
    נוהגין
    ליטול
    שכרם
    מהצבור,

    gh500

    'Regarding the Rema his Talmid the Levush follows the Yesh Omrim, I'm not sure about the Kelalim but I think Yesh Omrim at the end can be Ikkar'

    i do not


    http://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/9856/why-when-washing-for-bread-do-we-splash-twice

    YDK Pashtus is actually to wash the whole hand per the shulchan aruch 161:4 based on stam veyesh omrim halacha kestam, as well as the shulchan aruch's own statement there verifying thi

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  39. elemir

    I don't actually think your points highlight a huge difference between research at Uni in the humanities fields and Kollel.

    1) In terms of numbers, are you saying that as a concept, learning while being supported is okay, it is just the numbers that you find problematic?

    2)I don't know how you can assume that the nation are happy to support the research into the humanities. I doubt most people know they are supporting it. What would your average person appreciate about a thesis on the thought of Levinas? I think you are showing your own prejudices here. I think your average person would be just as upset at supporting that as he/she would in supporting research into a sugya in Bava Kamma.

    3) I don't think there is any expectation about what a research student will do after his/her Phd. I know many people who have done a Phd and have gone into a different field altogether. Research is valued for pure research sake and not from what the researcher will do afterwards. Furthermore, there are lots of grants that researchers can apply for even after they have finished their Phd. So no real time limit.

    4)Kollel students are also trying to add to mankinds knowledge. It is just that you value a thesis on Levina's thought more than you value a thesis or shiur on Jewish torts.

    5) An enormous amount of seforim are being produced today. In fact, I would say too many seforim.

    I am certainly not saying I am in favour of mass kollel. I just do not see how you so clearly differentiate between Kollel and research at Uni in the non practical fields. If your only real issue is the numbers, that is a completely different from being against the concept of a kollel.

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  40. the KM explicitly states "לומדים ומלמדים"

    You can't just look at one phrase - you have to look at the entire discussion. He writes at length about how there is justification for those who performing a service for the community such as paskening or teaching. So that phrase has to be reconciled with that - either it is lav davka, or he is talking about people who are studying in order to become teachers (which is not what people in kollel are doing).

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  41. By the way, a lot of comments have been rejected because they were posted anonymously. As it says explicitly in the comment submission form, ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.

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  42. Avrohom:

    Your point about there being no difference between funding graduate work in the humanities and kollel was not an argument about whether kollel is halakhically justifiable but was aimed at convincing the secular public to accept funding for kollel.

    When eEemir made the very valid point of the difference in numbers you responded that "If your only real issue is the numbers, that is a completely different from being against the concept of a kollel."

    But the secular government has accepted the idea of a limited number of students being permitted to stay in kollel.

    So what's your point?

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  43. One detail that has been overlooked is the date of Rav Moshe's תשובה- summer of 1964. This was well before Kollel had become a mass institution. It was still exclusive to the elite. In Israel most charedim (probably more than 80%) were working. And in the USA, R' Scheur Kotler had just taken from his father in Lakewood where he would expand enrollment five-fold.

    Did Rav Moshe return to this issue in the 1980's? I heard one his students in the early 90's rant against the system of endless Kollel. (But I don't recall at all him citing Rav Moshe as the basis of his opinion.) Has Rav Greenblatt addressed the issue?

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  44. MO,

    I think you are missing the point of this post. This post is aimed at working out whether Kollel (ie receiving money to study) is permissible halachically. This post is nothing to do with the proposal currently being put forward re Kollel students.
    My initial question was that given we have a reality whereby students undertake research at Universities and such research is funding by the government, could that mean that even the Rambam and the other poskin would consider it permissible today to do a similar think with learning (ie learning while being supported by public funding) and that it would not be considered a chilul hashem.

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  45. Herb,

    When you read the sources (Rema, Aruch Hashulchan and others) it is very clear from the context that they are not talking about the masses taking money for learning but the rabbinic leadership (Rabbis, Dayanim, Roshei Yeshiva).

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  46. brooklyn refugee sheigitzAugust 15, 2013 at 11:49 AM

    I have to say that I am with Avrohom on the issue of government spending on university vs. kollel.
    there is a lot of trash being put out in the humanities and supported by the government. an international committee recently recommended that ben gurion university completely shut down it's political science department due to sub standard work. and the government supports the universities at the salary levels - not just the student level. so tenured faculty and other salaries for the workers are ultimately also paid (at least partly) by tax shekels.

    that being said the government support for Torah should not exclude the religius zionist yeshivot and kolell training programs, pre-army prepatory academies, joint yeshiva-university programs like Bar Ilan torah institute or machon lev, the talmud, tanach, and machshevet yisreal departments at all universities and colleges, as well as teacher training programs at such institutions, the mishpat ivri studies at israeli law faculties, etc. etc. Once you throw that in, just how many chereidi yeshivos and charedi kollel avreichim should be getting government funding in order to properly balance "forced" government support of Torah vs. other research and study disciplines?
    I think that the correct answer would be - not all that many....

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  47. Brachot (35b) Rashbi says a person should learn Torah the entire day and somehow will find a way to support himself. Rabbi Yishmael disagrees and that a person is required to fullfill "veasafta deganecha vetirashcha veyitzharecha".

    Isnt this the machloket today?
    If so, whats the problem the mass kollel system holds like Rashbi.

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  48. The problem with taking money for learning the way it is done today is that it produces a taking mentality that infests the person's entire life. It infests their entire perspective on the Torah they learn influencing it. When the hand outs stop you now have to use your learning to justify forcing people to give it to you. When someone comes to you for advise or a shayla it will be answered through the prism of someone who must defend getting something for nothing. Is getting a tuition break okay while taking a trip to Israel because your daughter needs you? Maybe, but it is on the communities dime and you will probably be told that it is fine - if a person would even think that it is a shayla. It comes to the point that you wonder if the people who answer shayla's have the status of being bribed since all they do is take money and support a system which forces money to be taken. This is not only the situation for Rabbonim but even other people on the receiving end.

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  49. Avrohom wrote:

    "...could that mean that even the Rambam and the other poskin would consider it permissible today to do a similar think with learning (ie learning while being supported by public funding) and that it would not be considered a chilul hashem."

    Clearly not. For here numbers matter. The numbers of humanities doctoral students funded by the government in Israel is miniscule. No one *including academics* would accept the idea of the government funding large numbers of doctoral students in the humanities. That would be a waste of money and immoral.

    The government is proposing 1500 kollel students a year be funded. I am sure that is much much more than all humanitiies doctoral students in the *entire country.* And that 1500 students is from 10% of the population.

    Furthermore most doctoral students in Israel serve in the army and identify (in some respect) as Zionist. Asking the secular public to fund a huge number of students that don't serve in the army and reject Zionism is chutzpah and a bigger Hillul Hashem than any scenario contemplated by the Rambam.

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  50. The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.

    The machloket is the same as always - who's the Devil?

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  51. Avrohom..you keep wanting to compare kollel funding to university research funding. obviously you have no idea how such grants work. Researchers have to produce grant proposal prior to getting a cent, then papers on what they've accomplished, which in turn are peer reviewed. else the money dries up.

    again nobody in any type of research gets paid just to sit and read like the kollelniks do. (except for scholarships toward an academic degree).

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  52. Eylu VaEylu,

    The problem is very simple, the Gemara concludes that many people did like Rashbi and DID NOT succeed while many people did like R' Yishmael and succeeded. In other words, the conclusion of the Gemara is that kollel is not for the masses but only for the few.

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  53. To follow up on Ben Altman's point, the Charedi system leads to things like what I describe here Entitled to tzedaka?, a sense of unbridled entitlement.

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  54. BLUKE wrote:

    “When you read the sources (Rema, Aruch Hashulchan and others) it is very clear from the context that they are not talking about the masses taking money for learning but the rabbinic leadership (Rabbis, Dayanim, Roshei Yeshiva).”


    Sorry, but that is not correct. The Rema in his most liberal position, the Beit Yosef and the Rashbatz (as quoted by the Beit Yosef) all allow talmidim to receive money and apply no such limiting qualification of rabbinic leadership. While it is true that not every posek permits receiving money to learn in kollel, that is irrelevant as those presently attacking the kollel concept are ignoring the legitimate opinions of poskim such as the Beit Yosef who explicitly says it is the preferable approach for the masses to follow (yes, he says that!!) and they accuse those who take a stipend of acting improperly.

    It is not improper to follow an opinion stated by the Rema and specifically endorsed by the Beit Yosef.

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  55. BLUKE also wrote:

    "The problem is very simple, the Gemara concludes that many people did like Rashbi and DID NOT succeed while many people did like R' Yishmael and succeeded. In other words, the conclusion of the Gemara is that kollel is not for the masses but only for the few."

    This is a common misunderstanding of that gemara. In a functioning kollel system, a person learning knows he will receive a stipend. Rashbi is talking about a person making no effort to ensure a salary and instead relies that money will somehow come anyway. THAT idealistic approach is what failed for the masses. However, relying on the knowledge that an adequate salary has been mutually agreed to by someone or some institution is not being discussed there at all.

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  56. Reuven wrote:

    'Regarding the Rema his Talmid the Levush follows the Yesh Omrim, I'm not sure about the Kelalim but I think Yesh Omrim at the end can be Ikkar'

    i do not

    עכ"ל ראובן.


    1) The אגרות משה [http://goo.gl/MzfWqG] writes
    דכן איפסק ברמ"א שאפילו בריא מותר מותר לחכם ולתלמידיו לקבל הספקות
    It's unlikely he erred on something this basic.

    2) If Yesh Omrim/Makilin is not Ikkar here, then the Rema is following the Rambam(!) in a case where even RY Karo follows Tos.

    With regards to your Klal in the Mechaber of Stam Vyesh Omrim Halacha Kistam, this is not the first time I'm under the impression that the klal doesn't lend itself to the Remah. The Remah references his sources in parentheses, so it's not really Stam, it's Yesh V'Yesh where it's like the second yesh Omrim.

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  57. Herb,

    See the Brisker Rav on Chayei Sara where he explains the contradiction between R' Nhorai and R' Meir about teaching your son an umnus.

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  58. Natan Slifkin wrote
    You can't just look at one phrase - you have to look at the entire discussion. He writes at length about how there is justification for those who performing a service for the community such as paskening or teaching. So that phrase has to be reconciled with that - either it is lav davka, or he is talking about people who are studying in order to become teachers (which is not what people in kollel are doing).

    looking at the entire discussion it's the latter:


    ולפי שהיה בזמנם אלפים ורבבות תלמידים אולי לא היו נותנין אלא למפורסמים שבהם, או שכל מי שהיה אפשר לו שלא ליהנות היה עושה
    He doesn't differentiate between Rav and Talmid, (and the implication is that it is Muttar to support even a mediocre Talmid).

    ודיונתן בן עמרם [ב"ב ח'.] אדרבה משם ראיה דאמר רבינו הקדוש שלא יכנס להתפרנס משלו אלא ת"ח ואם איתא שאסור היאך היה מכשילן לת"ח לתת להם מה שהוא אסור


    This is what the Gemara in Bava Basra says
    רבי פתח אוצרות בשני בצורת אמר יכנסו בעלי מקרא בעלי משנה בעלי גמרא בעלי הלכה בעלי הגדה אבל עמי הארץ אל יכנסו

    אמר לו רבי פרנסני אמר לו בני קרית אמר לו לאו שנית א"ל לאו אם כן במה אפרנסך

    Clearly we're not talking about a criteria for great teachers, or someone specially distinguished to be one in the future. But like the Chazon Ish said in any Kolel student (obviously only then when they were only idealists), you never know who will end up being great.

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  59. " an international committee recently recommended that ben gurion university completely shut down it's political science department due to sub standard work"

    On the other hand, their medical and nursing schools are excellent--and a lot harder to get into.

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  60. "Note, however, that Rashbatz specifically limits this to Torah scholars functioning in the role of community rabbi."

    not true. the tashbetz in responsum 142, after discussing support for rabbis and roshei yeshivos, states "and even the students.. although they are not roshei yeshivos, there is an obligation for the community to support them". The tashbetz repeats this point in responsum 146. I find it sad that both sides of this debate find it necessary to misrepresent sources.

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  61. sorry, the point about supporting students is repeated by the tashbetz in resp.147, not 146 as I mistakenly posted previously.

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  62. bluke wrote:

    "See the Brisker Rav on Chayei Sara where he explains the contradiction between R' Nhorai and R' Meir about teaching your son an umnus."

    Despite lots of searching in two editions of the Brisker Rav, I can't find the explanation you refer to. Are you sure that's the right reference?

    Here's a quote from the המקנה about Rav Nehorai who makes a point similar to mine:
    http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=24628&st=&pgnum=376

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  63. I am afraid, as much as I hate to admit it, that in this case Eytan Kobre is closer to the truth than you are. Kobre's essential point (stylistic points aside) is that it is misleading for D. Lipman to simply quote the Rambam as if that is the beginning and end of the discussion, and the "official" Jewish view. In fact, historically, the Rambam's attack on Rabbis receiving money failed. Even if you are correct in your reading of the Rema's final position, in the field his heter (or more properly the Tashbatz's heter) is the one that became normative. Thus, we see in essentially all Jewish communities, the Rabbi receives compensation. Such was also the case in Europe. Even the Gra, who had no official communal responsibility, received a stipend from the Vilna kehilla. The Aruch HaShulchan, for example, quotes the Rema's heter at length, (including supporting students) with no word of criticism. It clearly represents his view of the psak. Rav Moshe is also clear on this issue - his reference to "et la-asot" is a replay of the Kesef Mishna (who probably is echoing the Tashbatz - I haven't checked yet), and is NOT AT ALL a reference to special 1960 post-Holocaust conditions.

    Of course, this does not mean that the gov't is obligated to support yeshivas and kollels - (I don't believe you can make a case that the are), just that the receiving of a stipend (at least by someone who is not wealthy enough to manage without) has been (for better or worse) normative practice for a long time. I don't know what if any stipend yeshiva students received in Europe - but they at the very least ate "kest", which was a form of financial support.

    David Kessler

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