Monday, March 31, 2014

Adopt-A-Disaster

In light of the budget cuts to the charedi community in Israel, a new initiative has been launched: Adopt-a-Kollel! This enterprise seeks to raise funds for kollels in Israel; specifically, to pair every kollel in Israel with a shul in the Diaspora that will fund it. To many, it sounds like a wonderful idea. In fact, it is a disastrous proposal, as well as being extraordinarily offensive in its execution.

First, some background. Facing government expenditure that was much greater than government income, the Bank of Israel, in its Monetary Policy Report for January-June 2012, insisted that a massive cut was necessary for the 2013-2014 state budget. Accordingly, a whopping three billion shekels was cut from the defense budget, alongside various cuts to other ministries, and VAT and corporate taxes were increased. Alongside all these cuts, 350 million shekels was cut from yeshivos and kollels. For families in kollel, receiving 279 shekels per month instead of 856 shekels per month is very difficult. Accordingly, many people in kollel are in dire straits. Hence, the Adopt-a-Kollel initiative.

The first advertisement that came to my attention was printed in the US edition of Yated and HaModia (and I think also in Mishpacha). It prominently quoted (part of) the famous and much-abused Rambam in Hilchos Shmittah about honorary members of the Tribe of Levi:
Not only the Tribe of Levi, but each and every individual human being, whose spirit moves him and whose knowledge gives him understanding to set himself apart in order to stand before the Lord, to serve Him, to worship Him, and to know Him, who walks upright as God created him to do, and releases himself from the yoke of the many foolish considerations which trouble people - such an individual is as consecrated as the Holy of Holies -
 - and here the quote ended. It failed to quote the last part, in which Rambam states that:
and his portion and inheritance shall be in the Lord forever and ever. The Lord will grant him adequate sustenance in this world, just as He granted to the priests and to the Levites. Thus did David, peace upon him, say, "O Lord, the portion of my inheritance and of my cup, You maintain my lot."
Radvaz explains this to mean that the person manages to get by with his own efforts and reliance on God; he notes that it does not mean that he casts himself upon the community for support.

Insofar as Rambam does equate Torah scholars with the tribe of Levi with regard to material sustenance, he makes the meaning of this clear elsewhere:
...the Torah permits scholars to give their money to others to invest in profitable businesses (on their behalf)... and to receive priority in buying and selling merchandise in the marketplace. These are benefits that God granted them, just as He granted the offering to the Kohanim and the tithes to the Levite... for merchants occasionally do such things for each other as a courtesy, even if there is no Torah scholarship to warrant it. A Torah scholar should certainly be treated at least as well as a respectable ignoramus. (Commentary to the Mishnah, Avos 4:7)
In Rambam's view, Torah scholars, like Kohanim and Leviim, receive benefits, but the benefits are of a different nature. They involve the investment of funds, and assistance in business, rather than financial gifts. (This is similar to the Yissacher-Zevulun relationship, which, according to Chazal, was nothing at all like it is popularized today; rather, it involved Zevulun marketing the produce that Yissacher farmed.)

Rambam clearly would not have been in favor, to put it mildly, of the modern phenomenon of mass kollel. He makes this clear elsewhere:
One who makes up his mind to involve himself with Torah and not to work, and to support himself from charity, has profaned God’s Name and brought the Torah into contempt, extinguished the light of religion, brought evil upon himself, and has taken away his life from the World-to-Come... (Hilchos Talmud Torah 3:10)
This quote from Rambam did not appear in the Adopt-a-Kollel advertisement. I guess that "Adopt-a-Profanation-of-God's-Name-and-Bringing-of-Torah-into-Contempt-and-Extinguishing-the-Light-of-Religion-and-Bringing-Evil" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

The second advertisement for "Adopt-a-Kollel" is downright offensive. It includes the following line from the Haggadah:

"In every generation, they stand against us to exterminate us..."
They are comparing the Government of Israel, making vital budget cutbacks, to the enemies of the Jewish People who tried to annihilate us?!

It's not as though the cuts are not a singular measure directed at the charedi world by evil Torah-haters. They are part of a general cutback in the national budget. The defense budget, which is understandably of much greater concern to the State, was cut by ten times as much. How dare Adopt-a-Kollel speak of this as an attempt at extermination?!

But let's leave aside the perversion of Rambam and the offensiveness of the advertising. Let's not even dwell upon the fact that mass kollel is a modern innovation that goes entirely against the position of Chazal and the Rishonim with regard to taking money for Torah study.

Let's simply instead point out the following: The modern kollel system is a disaster. It is a disaster for the State of Israel, with only 40% of charedi men being employed. This is part of the very cause of the Government budget crisis in the first place!

And the modern kollel system is a disaster for the charedi community. Institutionalized poverty causes myriads of problems, from health to shalom bayis. And it's a problem that constantly gets worse; people in kollel don't just make a personal choice for their own lifestyle, they raise their children with no secular education and no desire to work.

Unfortunately, the charedi world has shown little interest in breaking out of this disastrous system. They have fought secular education tooth and nail. A new charedi school that offered full matriculation exams was unable to locate itself in Ramat Beit Shemesh (thank God, my children attend one of the many non-charedi schools). And Rav Steinman visited and gave a speech in which he condemned secular studies in schools.

Tragically, the only thing that really seems to work is hitting rock-bottom. According to a report in The Times of Israel, as a result of the budget cuts, "for the first time in years, the number of Haredi students enrolling full-time in yeshiva study dropped by a whopping 4,400." Far from trying to "exterminate" charedim, the goal of the government is to encourage charedim to work for a living and to follow Chazal's eminently sensible directive that a person should teach his child a profession.

Asking shuls in the US to help perpetuate the cycle of enforced poverty is not a solution. Instead, we need to help people help themselves, as per Rambam's highest level of charity - perhaps by supporting Kemach, a foundation that helps train charedim to enter the professional workforce. Adopt-a-Kollel is simply Adopt-a-Disaster.


70 comments:

  1. If it is any comfort, there is NO way that donors can match the support that the State of Israel provided. Whatever they give may help a few people stay in kollel, it won't reverse the budget cuts.

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  2. Your points are interesting and have some validity. However, I take the position that it is not the governments role to fund any religious institution in the first place and so going out to raise money is logical. Now, one could argue that since this a Jewish state, their should be funding for Kollels, Yeshivas and the like. OK, if the govt of Israel was religious then I could understand it. But since the govt here in Israel is not religious and have no interest in it for the most part...any monies given make the whole thing a mockery. The bottom line is that if they want to be supported, then let them get funds from private organizations, individuals,etc...but not from any government. If, by doing this the education, etc of these people suffer...then it is of their own making.

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  3. You should know betterMarch 31, 2014 at 9:49 AM

    Here you go again, bashing Chareidim. OK, we all get it - you have an agenda - can we move on? For someone who considers himself an intellectual, you really need to take a deep breath and publish something a little intellectual. And btw - you don't have to thank g-d your kids are not in Chareidi schools - no respectable Chareidi school would let someone with an agenda like yours walk through the door.

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  4. To the person above:
    It doesn't make much of a difference if he has an agenda or not to us people considering his arguments. If his reasoning isn't strong then it will be refuted. If he is giving good arguments, then these are things to consider independent of the person offering them. This is how reasonable people argue, they discuss the points being raised. As a side point, agendas and motivations are considered maybe. Is someone less logically correct if they have an agenda in presenting the argument? Negative. By the way, how do charaidim reconcile themselves with that very strong rambam about full time learners? It doesn't seem to allow for large scale exceptions.

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  5. The cuts to kollelim have nothing to do with budget cuts. If the chareidi parties would have been needed for a coalition, they would get 1000 shekels a month and if Lapid would have more clout they would get nothing.

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  6. Excellent article covering some very important issues!

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  7. To 42fizzbin:

    The gov't of Israel does have an interest to fund yeshivas. Ergo, your claim that it is not religious is inaccurate and needs to be re-examined.

    So the fact is that the gov't of Israel does wish to fund yeshivas, perhaps to the degree it funds other academic institutions, or to the degree it funds the arts, etc, or to the degree that it can afford.

    Claiming after decades of receiving funding, that when there is a budget cut that means that "in every generation they come to destroy us" is a huge slap in the face, no?

    Unbelievable lack of Hakarat HaTov?

    So here's the strange thing about R' Steinman: he's the go-to-gadol of the Chareidi-run lower school my kids go to. Plenty of secular education. English, math, the entire "liba" program and then some. For boys and girls. So... it's different if you're serving a mixed community that would otherwise go to MMD schools? It's different if ... what?

    Anyway, I think the pressure to teach Torah only is not coming from him. Like many things in Judaism, these pressures come from the people themselves.

    They want their children to be "pure" more than they want them to be able to make a living in the greater world.

    The mothers, in particular.

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  8. Kira...since the government of Israel is not religious nor based on Halakah...therefore it does not have any business in religious affairs, giving monies to same at all. It is like the offices of the Chief Rabbi's they are not only beholden to Jewish but also the state which is not religious. So they, like other religious institutions have to straddle a fence and then compromise. For much better explanations read Yeshayahu Leibowitz's "Judaism, Human Values and the Jewish state". He advocated a wall of separation between the state and religion, Ben Gurion said no thinking that the state could control the religious. Now, because there is no wall of separation, the government, religious institutions, meddle in each others business and corrupt each other. This mess over budget cuts, the draft could have been avoided.

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  9. Yes 42Fizzbin. Let's all pretend that Israel is the US, or better yet, just move to the US.

    No thanks. I'll take my Jewish people as a nation, not a collection of cults, thank you very much.

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  10. 42FIZZBIN-

    It is an oversimplification to claim that governemntal support for religious institutions in Israel is only provided to "control" the religious. Some in authority no doubt think this, but it seems the secular population wants it. They feel these things give the Jewish state an ethical and national base, i.e. they view religious life as part of our identity. The view today is 'live-and-let-live'....i.e. you do what you want and I'll do what I want but we won't interfere in each other's lives. A good exmaple is when we came to Israel in 1986, there were conflicts when stores wanted to sell unkosher meat. Their windows would be smashed and the Rabbinate tried to close them down. There were also the Shabbat wars...people wanted to open places of entertainment on Shabbat and there were demonstrations and counter-demonstrations.
    Today, many places of entertainment are open on Shabbat and pork is sold openly and the religious community accepts it. In return , the secular accept Orthodox Rabbinical control of wedding, divorces and funerals and religious institutions receive state funding. This is part of the religious-secular modus-vivendi that makes up Israel today and it seems to work.

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  11. Sam wrote, By the way, how do charaidim reconcile themselves with that very strong rambam about full time learners? It doesn't seem to allow for large scale exceptions.

    Sam, the Rambam's view was unpopular and not widely held even when he wrote it. He himself writes as much in a Teshuva. The major commentaries on the Rambam, including the Kessef Mishna (Rav Yosef Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch), explain at length why the Rambam's view even if it may be correct in theory, is not correct in practice.

    I'm not familiar with even one Acharon who paskens like the Rambam in practice.

    R' Natan, if you know of one or more, please share that knowledge with the rest of us. Thanks.

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  12. It's time to put an end to the abuse of the final "halacha" in Hilchot Shmitta V'Yovel. It's very clear from the text itself that the individual compared to a Levite will be provided for by Hashem. Nowhere does the Rambam say that he will be supported by the community. Indeed this goes against the Rambam's strong words against scholars living off charity.
    Now, it may be that we don't pasken like the Rambam in regards to scholars taking charity. But that doesn't change the intent of the Rambam in Shmitta V'Yovel.
    Indeed the consensus of the authorities read this halacha to refer to a unique individual who does not take money from the community, rather he either works a little, or he lives off whatever property he has, or simply depends on Hashem. This is the mainstream understanding and is held by the Radvaz, Ma'aseh Rokeach, Maharitz Chayot, the Netziv, R' Ahron Kotler and Rav Chaim Kanievsky. (The only major authority who may have held otherwise was the Chofetz Chaim- he appears to be a דעת יחיד, and in any case the nature of his reading indicates that it need not be interpreted as definitive.)

    The comparison of every Yeshiva guy to שבט לוי is transparently inappropriate. Consider that the census revealed that the numbers of the לויים were relatively tiny to the other שבטים. Here's what the כלי יקר writes:
    ...
    וי"א שלכך לא נתרבו כדי שיהיה נקל לישראל לפרנסם, וזה טעם רחוק כי אין מעצור לה' להושיע ולפרנס משרתיו עושי רצונו... וי"א שצפה הקב"ה שלא יהיו כולם צדיקים ע"כ העביר רבים מהם מן העולם ונשארו קב ונקי כדי שיהיו כל העוסקין עם הארון צדיקים וז"ש שהיה הארון מכלה בהם

    Some held that the numbers of the לויים were small to reduce the strain of the economy. (The כלי יקר rejects this reason since Hashem can easily support those who serve Him, without ruining the economy. But the economy is strained, which should beg the question whether all those who live off the dole are truly serving Hashem.) Another reason he cites is that the לויים needed to be on a lofty level and those that failed to reach that level died off. Their numbers were thus thinned leaving only the most righteous and holy.
    Not everybody can claim the status of a לוי, not even a לוי himself.

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  13. Ephraim, It's not clear if you are responding to my comment but let me make it clear that I am referring to the Rambam in Hilchos T.T. 3:10 where he states it is a chillul HaShem to take charity for learning Torah.

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  14. the Rambam's view was unpopular and not widely held even when he wrote it.

    While Rambam's view was extreme, the fact is that amongst the Rishonim, it was almost unheard of to take money for learning, and the ideal always remained as per Chazal, to be self-supportive. See my monograph on The Economics Of Torah Study. Also see the Ramoh, discussed in this post: http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2013/05/is-it-better-to-be-supported-in.html

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  15. I agree with Ben Waxman above. These charitable programs will not come close to replacing the government subsidies. All contributors are really doing is helping put food on someone's table while the recipients figure out how to survive in this new environment. There are hungry children to think of.

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  16. Y. Ben-David-this what Ben Gurion planned to do and the that was the ideology of the Labor party, and others. Maybe an oversimplification on their part(not mine)and it proved over time not to work by simple demographics of the religious sector. Ameteur-a collection of cults? What do you think we have here in Israel? Breslov, NaNach, Carlebachites, Bergites(of the Kabbalah), Worshipers of the Zohar forgery, red strings,etc, etc. Need I go on? The U.S. put up a wall of separation because they knew what happen in Europe prior to 1776 and did not want a repeat of that mess. Bottom line if they want to fund Kollels and the like...let them raise money and the government have no hand in it. As long as they(the religious sector) is honest in their fundraising...I have no problems.

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  17. Moshe Dovid Tokayer:

    It's OK to say "we don't hold like the Rambam." But it's absolutely not OK to say "we don't hold like the Rambam" while using other language from the Rambam to make it seem like the Rambam supports the exact opposite of his position.

    In other words, your point has no validity so long as Chareidi flyers are quoting "become like Shevet Levi" as a justification for the Kollel system.

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  18. "And btw - you don't have to thank g-d your kids are not in Chareidi schools - no respectable Chareidi school would let someone with an agenda like yours walk through the door."

    Yet another major problem with certain Chareidi views: the notion that children should be prevented from receiving a Torah education depending on the circumstances of their homes.

    That is a true Chilul HaShem

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  19. Hi Rabbi -

    Is this like "Adopt-a-Highway"?

    Hey, as long as they have "a yeshua," and not "Yeshua," we can't complain too much!

    Happy Rosh Chodesh Nisan,
    M. Singer

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  20. Labelling the Israeli gov't as the "persecutor du jour" (bechol dor va-dor omdim aleinu le-chaloteinu) must be deeply offensive to people who continue to celebrate Pesach after having physically faced real oppression (Nazis, Stalin, service in Israel's wars, etc.) What a slap in the face.

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  21. You should know betterMarch 31, 2014 at 5:52 PM

    "And btw - you don't have to thank g-d your kids are not in Chareidi schools - no respectable Chareidi school would let someone with an agenda like yours walk through the door."

    Yet another major problem with certain Chareidi views: the notion that children should be prevented from receiving a Torah education depending on the circumstances of their homes.

    That is a true Chilul HaShem


    Actually, I think this is very admirable of Chareidi society. Money is not green regardless of where it comes from. Someone intent on bashing central beliefs of a society that has produced huge talmidei chachamim and is responsible for the majority of major yeshivos in the world is not welcome. No matter that they can pay their way. And unfortunately, a person like that can affect their young children in very detrimental ways - why allow such an influence? Sad, very sad.

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  22. OccamsElectricShaverMarch 31, 2014 at 6:18 PM

    "(This is similar to the Yissacher-Zevulun relationship, which, according to Chazal, was nothing at all like it is popularized today; rather, it involved Zevulun marketing the produce that Yissacher farmed.)"

    I'm asking out of ignorance, but I'd be very curious to see how this is indicated by the primary sources. Might you be able to point me to the source for this?

    Thanks

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  23. "If it is any comfort, there is NO way that donors can match the support that the State of Israel provided."

    Perhaps not, and perhaps not an an annual basis, but don't underestimate the generosity of people. There are, thank God, quite a few gigantic gvirim among us. And many of them are quite superstitious, as well as (despite their intelligence) unlearned. It is common for such people to drop a million or two dollars if a rebbe or a rosh yeshiva asks. 356 million shekel is what roughly, something like $100mm US? That's not totally undoable.

    It's actually a problem, in a strange sense. Kollelim are being propped up on the shoulders of these gvirim around the world, not on average ballebattim. The problem is that it has a compound effect. The money that goes into the kollelim is money that doesn't go into the school system, the shuls, and other needs. And because the kids of such people are in the schools, tuition for everyone else goes up, and the gvirim aren't paying for them. So generosity if for sure a great thing, but it has a lot of unintended consequences.

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  24. Moshe Dick writes:
    Many commentators have correctly remarked on the seeming contradiction of chareidim embracing the last Rambam in Hilchos Shemitta veJovel, while at the same time dismissing the Rambam's strong views about taking money for learning.It is true that many acharonim have disagreed from the Rambam on taking money, with the express indication, however, that it only deals with rabbonim and people woh actually teach Torah (see Kessef Mishneh).
    However, they key to a resolution to this whole debate is to see what was the norm for two thousand years (and before). As Rabbi Slifkin tirelessly keeps on saying, there was never a time when so-called "maass kollel' was the norm- regardless of what some of commentators pretend. As is the case with "Daas Torah", this is a modern invention and it came about because of the generosity (!) of the Israeli government for the past 65 years. This has now changed and it will take the chareidi world in Israel some tiem before they confront reality. I actually am optimistic and I think that many in the chareidi world will grasp at the lifeline the new law throws to them, leave kollel and (finally) go work for a living. This is the beginning and I think it will continue developing but there will be many painful episodes ahead.

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  25. Also, a close reading of the Rambam in Shemita VeYovel shows that he is not even necessarily talking about Jews.

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  26. Gil Student said...
    I agree with Ben Waxman above. These charitable programs will not come close to replacing the government subsidies. All contributors are really doing is helping put food on someone's table while the recipients figure out how to survive in this new environment. There are hungry children to think of.


    R. Student, I don't disagree, however, I would point out that there were similar predictions about hungry children as result of the 1996 welfare reform legislation in the US, which most people consider at least a partial success. For example, the public assistance roles in NYC fell by more than half from 1.1 million to 500,000, most likely at least in part due to this legislation. http://www2.nycbar.org/Publications/reports/show_html_new.php?rid=41.

    There is an element of paradox here; the more that you prop people up that could, in reality, fend for themselves, the more you harm them and the others that really need the help.

    Perhaps the best solution is the "workfare" provision of the US legislation: give to those who are endeavoring to move to the workforce, as R. Slifkin suggests.

    That said, I have no solution, although some leadership from the Charedi side might go a long way.

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  27. > The Lord will grant him adequate sustenance in this world, just as He granted to the priests and to the Levites

    Yeah, by sending them to my door.

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  28. I'm sure you're well aware of what the kesef mishna on that Rambam says. And btw the ground rules for workers are 3 or 4 hours a day of work and 8 or 9 hours of learning according to the Rambam.Enjoy.

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  29. Moshe Dick writes:
    DF : Your points are well taken and you have pointed out exactly the unforeseen tragic consequences that the present situation in israel may cause. The gemoro is replete with sayings of Jewish children being the true protection of the Jewish people and the importance of their education(Jehoshua ben gamla). If,indeed, the "Gvirim" will take their money and give it to kollelim in Israel rather than to schools in the US (and israel- see chinuch Atzmoi), it will be the most perverse result of this newfangled innovation, the so-called "mass kollel". It would negate three thousand years of mesorah (see Chizkyjohu and the children of israel in his time)and would have incalculable negative consequences.

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  30. Akiva said, "In other words, your point has no validity so long as Chareidi flyers are quoting "become like Shevet Levi" as a justification for the Kollel system."

    Do you even know what my point is? You are equating a PR campaign with halacha and saying that my point has no validity because it doesn't address the PR campaign.

    I'm addressing everyone who wields the Rambam's halacha in T.T. 3:10 and wonders what justification there is at all for a kollel system.

    And to that point, people need to know that the Rambam's halacha was unpopular when he wrote it. The major commentaries on the Rambam disagreed with him in practice including the Kessef Mishna, the author of the S.A. In fact the Rambam writes in his commentary on the Mishnayos regarding his view about taking money for learning Torah, "I considered not speaking about this ... because I know that my words will not find favor in the eyes of most of the Gedolei Torah and maybe all of them." (Avos 4:7)

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  31. RT-
    The Rambam's comment about working 3 hours a day was in a period when people were craftsmen who worked at home or day laborers who could come and go as the please. This is totally different than todays "punch-a-clock" industrial world.

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    Replies
    1. Which is exactly why a proffesion based society cannot support a Torah aware public in our times!!!!

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  32. I think they may have trouble with this concept in Baltimore, where the kahal is already under pressure to "adopt" the local schools beyond the tuition costs...

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  33. ... and with adequate bitachon, why would they be worried about getting needed funds in the first place?

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  34. "And btw the ground rules for workers are 3 or 4 hours a day of work and 8 or 9 hours of learning according to the Rambam."

    No, that is an ideal. If one cannot support oneself with that little work, Rambam would say that you have to work longer.

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  35. I have had enough of this Chareidi bashing commune.If you in all seriousness think you can pasken from the Rambam who every first-year Yeshiva student knows was always a daas yachid in this respect,(notwithstanding Leo Levi's attempt to prove otherwise in Shaarei Talmud Torah)then there is no future for full time Torah study, which is a ridiculous notion.Just as one can write books to support Derech Eretz one can easily write books supporting full-time Torah study-see Elu Va'Elu by Rabbi Schwab who recognized this as well.
    Lets cut to the chase: The Chareidim suffer from serious discrimination in their educational budget. Some people wish that they would get nothing, yet a government that supports students learning Chinese art etc. at a rate of 9 Billion Shekels a year for 200,000 students or some 50,000 shekels a year per student can afford to give more than 2880 shekels a year to a Yeshiva bochur studying Torah. Do you really think that for taking the liberty of studying in Yeshiva (forget Kollel for a moment) and continuing the chain of tradition they should get 16 times less than a university student? Do all university students end up with a degree they can use afterwards?
    Next- the budget for culture, which in this country is synonymous with degenerate and semi-pornographic materials for the most part (try going to a few plays and you'll agree)- yet of the 900 million shekel budget just 46 million goes to Jewish culture and its shared by secular colleges and Religious Zionist colleges, this is a drop in the bucket for what claims to be a Jewish state.
    I could go on and on but the main contention here is that Kollel families are perpetuating poverty. 1)Not every person leaving Kollel has a cushy job awaiting him even after he completes vocational courses. most employers will shun Chareidim anyway. 2)There is no guarantee that creating a system where all Chareidim do bagrut, army will ensure that they aid the economy. After all they will still want large families and to study Torah at least a half of their time- not "economically productive" activities.3)Last but not least- do you really presume that the secularists merit the Land of Israel just because they built it, even as they shun most of the mitzvot? I thought you said Vehaya im Shamoa every day- its black on white there that keeping the Torah is a prerequisite for maintaining the land of Israel. Sorry I still believe that those who study commit themselves and try to keep the mitzvot are the true reason we merit to live here.
    BTW the reason the army budget was cut was because it was horribly bloated before- officers demobilizing with huge pensions at age 46 made lucrative careers and became multimillionares, while many normal people somehow got defined as army disabled and also got huge pensions from the government. (See investigative analysis at http://www.thepost.co.il/news/new.aspx?pn6Vq=EE&0r9VQ=KGFJ).
    Please do some homework and provide a more balanced view of things. (Despite all the above I am acutely aware of the shortcomings in the system but this is just half the story).

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  36. If you in all seriousness think you can pasken from the Rambam who every first-year Yeshiva student knows was always a daas yachid in this respect

    First of all, the point was that the kollels are claiming to be following Rambam, but they are not.

    Second, while Rambam was indeed an extreme view, the fact is that amongst the Rishonim, it was almost unheard of to take money for learning, and the ideal always remained as per Chazal, to be self-supportive. See my monograph on The Economics Of Torah Study. Also see the Ramoh, discussed in this post: http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2013/05/is-it-better-to-be-supported-in.html

    then there is no future for full time Torah study

    There should indeed be no future for a system in which people are being raised to value being supported in kollel over working for a living.
    This is very different from the model of people who are learning to become teachers.

    Do all university students end up with a degree they can use afterwards?

    The overwhelming majority of them go on to enhance the economy. So, yes, it makes sense for the government to put money into them.

    Not every person leaving Kollel has a cushy job awaiting him even after he completes vocational courses.

    So what? That doesn't excuse him from trying!

    most employers will shun Chareidim anyway.

    And whose fault is that?

    There is no guarantee that creating a system where all Chareidim do bagrut, army will ensure that they aid the economy.

    Agreed, but it still would make it vastly more likely!

    After all they will still want large families and to study Torah at least a half of their time- not "economically productive" activities.

    But at least half the time, they will be able to work at jobs.

    I still believe that those who study commit themselves and try to keep the mitzvot are the true reason we merit to live here.

    Sorry, I do not believe that we live here in the merit of people who don't care about those outside of their community.

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  37. Far from trying to "exterminate" charedim, the goal of the government is to encourage charedim to work for a living and to follow Chazal's eminently sensible directive that a person should teach his child a profession.
    Assuming for a moment that a secular government and bloggers knows better Chazal directives, abrupt lowering the funds for poor families without making any practical steps to help them find alternate sources of income means just letting their children starve. Aside from lack of jobs in general (are not secular unemployed?), employers don’t want to hire charedim (here is for example study http://www.jpost.com/National-News/Employers-in-professional-fields-reluctant-to-hire-haredim ). So, if the government real goal was to bring charedim to work force rather than getting Lapid and Co political gain, they should have first tried to create the jobs for them and offer some kind of training and give them some grace period to adjust.

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  38. Rabbi Slifkin, So how do you excuse all the non charedim (for arguments sake) that earn enough money at age 50 or less, that do not believe in early retirement for the sake of learning?

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  39. You are misreading the Rambam in Hilchos Talmud Torah 3:10. Those who read carefully will note that the Rambam prohibits learning Torah IN ORDER to make money,and not as you write: a blanket prohibition against accepting charitable dollars. This is why the Halacha appears in Hilchos Talmud Torah,for learning in order to achieve material benefit is using the Torah as "Kardum Lachpor Bo" and that is the Chillul Hashem that he refers to. If it was as you (and others who mock Yeshivos)constantly cite, a critique of Kollel, this Halacha would appear in Hilchos De'os - not in the midst of a complete section devoted only to the manner in which Torah should be properly studied - the laws of learning Torah.

    Hence, this is the justification for today's Avreichim, who do not violate the Rambam - most of whom are very sincere, for there are very few individuals choose to learn for the paltry sum they (might)receive each month.

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  40. Yoel Domb-
    I will address the points you made:

    (1) Israel has a low unemployment rate by Western standards. Thus, the large majority of people who want to work find work, although not everyone does exactly what he wants to do. Employers want good workers and don't care if they are Haredim. Religious workers are found all over the economic system. The claim that many or most discriminate against Haredim is just another victimazation complaint.

    (2) There are plenty of Haredim and Dati Leumi people who have large families and work and devote time to studying Torah. Maybe not "half-time" but if you want to work, you have to go out and find the jobs. If they accept half-time workers, fine, but if they don't, you have to compromise.

    (3) Yes, secularists who contributed to building the state have a lot of zechoyot-merit. Yes, they are also making a lot of mistakes and often have messed-up priorities, but one must keep one's eye on the big picture. Just read the TANACH, you will see G-d works out things in ways that are not obvious, e.g. David HaMelech being decended from Lot and his daughter throuh Ruth the Moabite, Esther had to marry a despicable non-Jewish king in order to save Am Israel, Ahav, in spite of all his sins is praised by HAZAL for building a major city, David's dynasty came through his marriage with Bat-Sheva, I could go on and on. Rav Teichtal in "Em Habanim Semacha" wrote hundres of pages showing how G-d allows Jews to build up Eretz Israel and bring the Geulah through round-about ways and through people who don't look a first glance like Tzaddikim.

    David Goldman, a well-known social and political analyst says Israel is probably the healthies country in the world demographically, socially, economically and SPIRITUALLY. Considering the very difficult conditions the country was established in and how it was hobbled for decades by a corrupt, inefficient socialist economic system, the fact that it has come as far as it has is a REAL miracle.

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  41. Lazar said...
    Far from trying to "exterminate" charedim, the goal of the government is to encourage charedim to work for a living and to follow Chazal's eminently sensible directive that a person should teach his child a profession.

    Assuming for a moment that a secular government and bloggers knows better Chazal directives, abrupt lowering the funds for poor families without making any practical steps to help them find alternate sources of income means just letting their children starve. Aside from lack of jobs in general (are not secular unemployed?), employers don’t want to hire charedim (here is for example study http://www.jpost.com/National-News/Employers-in-professional-fields-reluctant-to-hire-haredim ). So, if the government real goal was to bring charedim to work force rather than getting Lapid and Co political gain, they should have first tried to create the jobs for them and offer some kind of training and give them some grace period to adjust.

    One problem is that as long as people are paid not to work, they will tend not to work. So part of what you have to do is going to cause pain. Also there is no way to 'create jobs first', in part because jobs don't get created by fiat.

    Agree that a system of "pay for training" etc, would be good. However, look at the article that you reference to see at least part of the problem:

    “The proposal distances us from our goal – more training, help with child care is what could have helped,” Ben-Eliezer said to an audience that included Gabai.

    “What is the power of coalition? The weakness of its components,” he said, noting that he could get almost any budget he requested for vocational training and support to employed mothers.

    “But that clashes with a political problem,” he said of the haredi parties’ objection to a change in the norm of kollel students receiving subsidiaries.
    (emphasis mine.)

    There is no doubt that are multiple motivations here, and some of this is driven by: "I just don't want to give them any more money; they made their bed so now let them sleep in it".

    But there is no way to get people to go to work if

    a) Their culture disdains work.
    b) They are paid not to.

    And b) support a) to some extent.

    There are no easy solutions to a multi-decade failure to invest in real-world skills and the values to back them up.

    Again, some political leadership on the Charedi side could do wonders here, but it seems that, like most political leadership, they are beholden to the status quo.

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  42. In addition, perhaps the rambam was opposed to working 0 hours vs. 2 hours, with the ability to support himself. Who says he would be against kolel today, when the alterantive is working full time?

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  43. The Charedim are essentially children. It sounds insulting or patronizing, but it's a fact. They need to be told what to do, and they cannot support themselves on their own. When a parents tells a child to (for example) go to bed or put his game away, the child yells and screams and may call his parent names, and say hateful things - but ultimately, the child will be better off for it.

    The rest of Jewry must understand this, and in fact, I think they do. Sometimes the kid can say something really ugly, and the parent wonders why he even bothers anyway? But the sense of responsibility compels the parent to do what he must, for the child's own sake.

    Now, some would ask, how is this different from (eg) liberals trying to interfere with conservatives, and trying to tell them what's good for them, that "we know better"? The difference is, other groups can handle themselves. They have the right to tell would-be interferers to back off, we'll do this our way. The charedim, by great contrast, can't do it on their own. They NEED handouts. Their society has failed. That gives the imperative for the adults to step in and bring in order. And we're not only speaking of tax money, which the charedim could (in a small way) claim to be partly theirs; the charedim live off charitable dontations in the millions, right down to the last r meir baal hanahess box.

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  44. Yoel Domb said...
    I have had enough of this Chareidi bashing commune.If you in all seriousness think you can pasken from the Rambam who every first-year Yeshiva student knows was always a daas yachid in this respect,(notwithstanding Leo Levi's attempt to prove otherwise in Shaarei Talmud Torah)then there is no future for full time Torah study, which is a ridiculous notion.


    He was a "Daas Yachid" that no-one should take money to teach Torah or be a professional Rabbi. That is a far cry from saying that most people should not work. The Shulchan Aruch codifies that one should work in קנו.

    Lets cut to the chase: The Chareidim suffer from serious discrimination in their educational budget. Some people wish that they would get nothing, yet a government that supports students learning Chinese art etc. at a rate of 9 Billion Shekels a year for 200,000 students or some 50,000 shekels a year per student can afford to give more than 2880 shekels a year to a Yeshiva bochur studying Torah.

    I assume that this is a college subsidy? I assume that the difference is obvious. The college subsidy is for a given number of years and only if you actually progress to graduation; also the graduates generally go on to be productive economically, thus paying back on the investment. Yes, some people do need to study art, even practically, because aesthetics are part of life and thus part of the knowledge needed to drive an economy.

    Next- the budget for culture, which in this country is synonymous with degenerate and semi-pornographic materials for the most part (try going to a few plays and you'll agree)- yet of the 900 million shekel budget just 46 million goes to Jewish culture and its shared by secular colleges and Religious Zionist colleges, this is a drop in the bucket for what claims to be a Jewish state.
    I agree that in most western cultures that culture subsidies are really subsidies for entertainment for rich people. But what of it? It still is destructive to pay people not to work. Also, the Charedim would like have political capital to spend on fixing this, if they were not spending unproductively on sustaining a welfare culture.

    I could go on and on but the main contention here is that Kollel families are perpetuating poverty.

    Not working is perpetuating poverty. Chazal tell us this, if you don't believe your lying eyes :).

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  45. The Adopt-a-Kollel program started a number of months ago.

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  46. Rabbi Moshe Weinberger blasts Kollel systemApril 1, 2014 at 12:26 AM

    Check out this recent shiur from Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, YU mashpia, in which he blasts and ridicules the kollel system

    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/810560/Rabbi_Moshe_Weinberger/Toras_HaBaal_Shem_Tov_(20)_A_Tale_Of_Two_Cities

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  47. Moshe Dick writes:
    The recent debates on this website have ,very interestingly, unveiled one thing. Here, every opinion is respected and is published. People like 'rt" or "Yoel Domb" and others, have their words published, even as they are highly critical of Rabbi Slifkin and other posters. However, on the other side, everything is cenosred that is even mildly critical of the chareidi opinion.. Whether it is "cross-currents" that,falsely, claims it is a moderate site, and where many comments who are critical of the correspondent's words,are censored (just ask Rabbi Slifkin about this and and I,too, had my comments deepsixed).Just try to make some mild criticism of the chareidi view on a website like "yeshivaworld" and you will be ignored and censored. In other words, the chareidi side is afraid of even discussing the matter and wants everyone to think in group-think. Real debate has evaporated and only the chareidi view is deemed the truth. This is the result of this new phenomonon called "daas torah", that is not daas torah at all, just a means of keeping their flocks in check and ignorant of other truths. Is it any wonderr that the non-chareidi world has decided to leave that kind of group think behind and impose their own views?

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  48. David Ohsie wrote, "There are no easy solutions to a multi-decade failure to invest in real-world skills and the values to back them up."

    This is true, but, from what I have seen, the gov't here has been too draconian in their cuts to yeshivot--yeshivot, not kollelim. Just in my small neighborhood, a friend informed me that two yeshivot (one that has been running for 12 years, and another that has been running for over 20 years) had their funding cut off entirely. The 12-year old yeshiva will apparently have to close. The 20-year old yeshiva raised the tuition, in order to finish out the year. I don't know the level of experience of the teachers in the yeshiva, but it's safe to assume that their teaching experience is only in limudei kodesh. I don't envy them in trying to find another position, in the middle of a school year.

    The gov't could at least have cut the budget partially, to soften the descent, or place them in some retraining or job placement program.

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  49. Yehuda P-
    When you say yeshivot are being closed down, are you referring to Yeshivot Ketanot (high-school age) or Yeshivot Gedolot (post-High school)?
    The reason I ask is because there has been an increasing spread of separate schools for Haredi children whose fathers work and others for fathers who don't work, although the families are equally observant of a Haredi lifestyle. I was flabbergasted when I heard this because not only is this creating a caste system within the Haredi community, but if the taxpayer is being asked to subsidize this, it is putting a totally unjustified burden on the state to keep all these superfluous (in my mind) institutions going.

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  50. Yoel,
    Nothing you wrote changes the fact that many Charedim misread the Rambam in שמיטה ויובל and simply throw away the traditional meaning of that "halacha". The claim that every kid who is learning full time has the status of שבט לוי is unsupported by the sources, and in light of what the מפרשים do write, is arrogant! Only one entirely dependent on Hashem (or himself) can have that exalted status. As soon as you declare yourself dependent on gov't you lose the status of שבט לוי. If you vote for UTJ, whose main purpose is to take money for its constituency, you lose the status of שבט לוי.

    You complain about corruption in gov't? Well, who is the gov't? For decades it was UTJ! Did they ever sell their votes for any anti-corruption legislation? Did they ever condition their entry into a coalition on the passing of laws to increase transparency? No, they only sell their votes for money.
    I simply don't want to hear Charedi complaints about the style of gov't or Israeli society. Not that I don't agree to a point. But it represents a total blindness towards the historical error made by Torah Jews over centuries. As I've written before, Israel was created by its inhabitants. The Gedolei HaDor: the Be"Sh"T, the Vilna Gaon, the חתם סופר, the בית הלוי called for Aliyah and development of ארץ ישראל. Who listened? The secularists and the radicals. (Even the Maharil Diskin only immigrated because he was fleeing troubles in the Old Country.) The reason why Israel is secular is because Torah Jews simply couldn't be bothered. Even today, some Charedim complain about Nachal Charedi. Why? Because it's not frum enough for them. Why? Because they only sent their wayward sons there. They sabotage the program and then complain about it. Why not send their successful sons into Nachal Charedi and turn it into a shining Torah institution? Because they can't be bothered. Why can't they take a more proactive stance when it comes to ethics in gov't? Because they can't be bothered.

    Then we have UTJ protesting the rise of the threshold for a party to enter the Knesset. The low threshold allowed the most insular, provincial, and downright solipsistic parties to exert power beyond their numbers. Instead of promoting parties which are formed and thrive on compromise, mutual recognition and some sense of the wider community, the low threshold promoted selfishness and an utter disregard for the nation. (That's why Gafni, in total disregard for כבוד התורה threatened to take down the Hesder Yeshivot.) The low threshold creates the same sick trend in society- the same sick/selfish attitude that leads to the economic corruptions that you complain about it. And it was this terrible trend that was supported by UTJ. If UTJ wants to avoid situations where people in gov't (including Charedi favorites such as Lopiansky and Metzger) put themselves in front of the community they should change their tune.

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  51. I'd like to clarify a few points:
    I agree that Mishpacha are completely off the mark in their interpretation of Rambam's opinion regarding Torah study. He clearly intended people to work-not just because of the quoted halakha in TT 3:10 but also from numerous other sources. Nevertheless scholars agree that Rambam himself was supported by his brother David's diamond business and studied Torah exclusively until the latter drowned at sea in 1171. The Rambam did not deem this inappropriate- it was a Yisachar-Zevulun partnership which gave us the Mishna Torah, and it was not for the sake of money or honor but simply because both brothers benefited from this. So what's the big deal if some wealthy Jews want to be "brothers" and partners in Torah with (hopefully) serious Avreichim here. I fully concur with your contention that an entire society cannot function in this way- that's what Abaye concluded in Brachot 35b regarding this issue. However I feel that if there were some meritocratic system by which the best and brightest minds would continue their studies and be fully supported both by the state and by wealthy donors it would enrich society at large and the Torah world in particular. At present, however, the state has simply cut off funds to everybody, even hesder yeshivot have been hit and this is simply discrimination as I demonstrated in my previous post (which has somehow been removed). And regarding the points made by R. Ben-David 1)It's still very difficult to find work at normal pay- even college-educated people (especially in humanities) do not have jobs lined up for them. 2)I agree that college studies are an investment- isn't Torah an investment too? Maybe we shouldn't judge everything in economic terms 3) do you really think that the 900 shekels given beforehand was the motivation for people not to work? I doubt the statistic about so many people leaving Yeshiva while I agree that if they weren't learning it's very good news...

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  52. Nevertheless scholars agree that Rambam himself was supported by his brother David's diamond business

    That is not true. Rambam learned medicine while his family was still living in Morocco. Upon moving to Egypt, Rambam soon rose to prominence as a physician. He also traded in gemstones, and his brother assisted with his investments, enabling him to devote much time to his studies. At no point was he simply receiving money from his brother. His brother was simply investing Rambam's own merchandise and earnings, just as Rambam permits Torah scholars to have done on their behalf.

    I agree that college studies are an investment- isn't Torah an investment too?

    It's only an investment for others if these Torah students are going to end up using this Torah study to enrich the rest of society. Which, for the most part, is not what happens.

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  53. Ephraim
    Please don't bring Chareidi politics in to this debate as I fully concur that all they are doing in the Knesset is a major Chilul Hashem- especially those who were jailbirds and have the chutzpa to return to public office. They are the chief criticizers of the Nachal Chareidi, they despise Chareidim who work even though they themselves hardly learn and they have no sense of responsibility to the Klal and I for one would never vote for them- even under "Gedolim" threats.
    However your point that the Chareidi community "couldn't be bothered" is only half-correct. Remember after the cataclysm of the holocaust they were so shell-shocked that they had to build something internally before they sought to bridge the gaps with the rampantly secularist majority. True the mistakes were made earlier when they did not come to build the land- as Eim HaBanim Semeicha laments. But they can hardly be faulted for circling the wagons for half a century when they were decimated by Hitler and by secularism and by Hitler.
    I believe that the Chareidi community has now realized that it owes much more to the Klal- they have established many projects which do remarkable Chesed for all factions. I am also optimistic that a new modern Chareidi group is emerging which will influence Israeli society positively as well as maintaining their Torah commitment. Ironically most of them form the basis of Mishpacha's readership even as they embrace a very different lifestyle.

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  54. Leonard ObersteinApril 1, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    I find this back and forth interesting. I am told by those who claim to know that there is a fortune of money in the hands of wealth managers for hedge funds run by and for frum Jews. We do not realize how very rich,the very rich are. If, indeed, they want to support long term learning on a long term basis, that will bring more money into Israel . The poor are ready to take, now the rich have to want to give. Seriously, I wonder how many people who have means identify and want to invest large sums in sustaining the current system in Israel. These people work and learn, do they really believe that Kollel for life is for all these people. On the other hand, so many Jews are being lost, we need the committed core. The viciousness of the Israeli chareidi culture, the way they try to destroy anyone who advocates another position is so uncivilized and offensive. Who is really running the Chareidi world, the very old rabbis or their handlers? Somw would ostracize me for even asking that question.

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  55. especially those who were jailbirds and have the chutzpa to return to public office. They are the chief criticizers of the Nachal Chareidi, they despise Chareidim who work even though they themselves hardly

    if you are talking about arye deri you couldn't be more wrong.

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  56. Perhaps not, and perhaps not an an annual basis, but don't underestimate the generosity of people.

    i'm not, but there are lord knows how many kollels in america which need support, along with endless number of other charities. unless there is some great untapped fund (like the until now secret wealthy hedge fund managers hinted to above), it ain't gonna happen.

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  57. Yoel:

    However I feel that if there were some meritocratic system by which the best and brightest minds would continue their studies and be fully supported both by the state and by wealthy donors it would enrich society at large and the Torah world in particular.

    Lu yihiyeh! Were there such a system in place, it would absolutely enrich society at large - and the chareidi world, since the folks who didn't make the "best and brightest minds" cut off would be working and contributing in other ways (while still devoting time to learn, as the rest of the Torah world does). But the Chareidi world and parties are specifically opposed to this approach, insisting on full time kollel for all, regardless of their competencies or ability to give back to the world in the form of Gadlus BaTorah.

    At present, however, the state has simply cut off funds to everybody, even hesder yeshivot have been hit and this is simply discrimination as I demonstrated in my previous post

    Actually, by maintaining an exemption from service for a certain number of yeshiva students and continuing to fund kollels at a lower level, the government is attempting to force the Chareidim to prioritize and adopt precisely the "best and brightest" model you are proposing. The level of funding is certainly enough to cover many, many avreichim learning full time - just not everyone! If the Chareidi world would do their part, and impose the meritocratic winnowing you propose to identify which particular students will be the beneficiaries of sufficient funds to support them, rather than continuing to distribute more limited funds per capita to everyone, so nobody has enough, the situation would be far better.

    In other words, absent an ability to impose the meritocratic system itself (which can only come from internal Chareidi impetus), the Government has done all it can to incentivize the creation of just such a system

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  58. I'd also like to know where Chazal explain that "it involved Zevulun marketing the produce that Yissacher farmed"...

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  59. Moshe Dick writes:
    As an aside to Yoel Domb's assertion that the Rambam was supported by his brother until 1171 (actually an inaccuracy), at that time the Rambam was 33 years old and then he became a doctor of medicine. "Halevai" that all kollel yungeleit leave kollel at 33 and go to get themselves a profession!

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  60. I want to thank the person (DF, I think) who made the point that funding kollelim uses resources that could (and ought to) be used to fund children's Torah education. I've been saying this for a while, and I wish more people would say it publicly. My husband has a good job, thank G-d, and yet, after paying three tuitions (at the minimum negotiable rate) we are not managing financially. I have two small children not in school yet, and whatever I could get paid in a job I'm qualified for would be eaten up (and then some) by childcare, so I stay home (though I do take on odd jobs for extra money). I feel a great personal resentment when I see the "Adopt-a-Kollel" adds, and I hope desperately that if and when people start to really think about this, they'll realize where their priorities should lie. We as a community can not afford to sustain a long-term academic class when it's at the expense of our children.

    --zion613

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  61. I understand the Meiri says that halachas of ovdei cochavim dont apply to typical modern non-Jews who are of a different moral quality and belief system of ancient pagans, both in terms of monotheistic belief and support, at least in theory, for basic humane tratment of others,

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  62. Yoel Domb -
    Even if you are correct in your assessment that the Rambam was supported by his brother - and as RNS and Moshe Dick point out, you are not - your own words indicate that your example is not analagous to supporting en masse Kollel. The Rambam gave us the Mihsnah Torah. He was the Rambam. I don't think many would object to funding the study of someone of the Rambam's caliber who will subsequently return many times over on the investment. That is not paying for private learning. That is funding the next "Mishnah Torah". How is that relevant to the discussion at hand?

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  63. RAbbi Slifkin, What I'm about to say is expressed clearly in the Aruch hashulchan in hilchos Talmud Torah. If you read the Rambam carefully (re:chilul hashem), You will notice, that the he is discussing someone who "throws himself on the tzibur in order to make a parnassah, and his excuse is, "I'm learning". In other words, In a case when the community does not agree to support you personally, yet you go on a "hunger strike", by way f not working, but rather learning instead, which leaves the community with no other choice other than to support him and his family. In that case it is an act of chilul Hashem. However, nowhere does the Ramabam condemn a kollel system that the community or scattered individuals are willing to take upon themselves to support. This also resolves an obvious contradiction, where the Rambam says a few lines later that it is midas chasidus to live off his own earnings!Why is it merely a midas chasidus,didnt he just say it's a chilul hashem? According to the way we explained -ther is o contradiction at all.Having said that,this definitely takes care of the American Kollel system EVEN according to the Rambams opinion. But in reality we can say the same for Eretz Yisroel as well. Because since it is a democratic country, the system will decide for itself, whatever the law of the land will be is by definition the will of the country. So let them fight it out during voting or while the coalitions are formed. Once again the Aruch hashulchan says this clearly (bishitas harambam). hilchos Talmud tora

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  64. Because since it is a democratic country, the system will decide for itself, whatever the law of the land will be is by definition the will of the country. So let them fight it out during voting or while the coalitions are formed

    if people felt this way, than there wouldn't have been all of "amalek" screaming over the last year.

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  65. Rabbi Slifkin, Do realize how silly your argument sounds? You claim that the government is singling out the chreidem, but rather it's general government cutback. Are you kidding me?! Just take at the numbers that you yourself posted. Are you comparing the mere 2 percent tax hike or the 3 percent ("whopping")military cuts to the WHOPPING 70 percent cuts that kolel guys have to endure?! Removing the bread out of the mouths of hungry women and children? How can you possibly claim that this is part of general cutback. You gotta be blind,45 not to notice that!!

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  66. You're right, it's also part of motivating them to go to work.

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  67. So then don't write "it's part of a general cutback".That's utter nonsense!

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  68. I have a brilliant idea!! The ad depicted in this article said "klal yisrael will have a yeshua". Instead of starting an Adopt-a-Kollel which may or may not get off the ground, why don't we simply donate to Kupat ha'ir. Then we certainly will have a "yeshua"!!

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