Sunday, March 20, 2016

Conversations with Collectors

Scenario 1:

Collector: Hi, I'm collecting for Yeshivas ***** ******

Householder: Okay. Listen, I help institutions in one of two ways. Most I help in a small way, but some I help in a big way. Would you like your yeshivah to be in the second category?

Collector: Sure, that would be great!

Householder: Okay, then can you answer a few questions about your yeshivah?

Collector: Sure! Fire away.

Householder: Do the students at your yeshivah learn seriously?

Collector: Yes, absolutely!

Householder: Do they sincerely believe that learning Torah is the greatest thing that a person can do?

Collector: Definitely!

Householder: The yeshivah doesn't encourage the guys to go to college, right?

Collector: No way!

Householder: And the yeshivah encourages guys to learn in kollel, right?

Collector: Yes, of course!

Householder: And the yeshivah doesn't encourage them to go the army, right?

Collector: Of course not!

Householder: The yeshivah believes that the greatest way that they can help Am Yisrael is by learning Torah, right?

Collector: Yes! Yes!

Householder: Okay, fine. So I'm going to help your yeshivah in a big way...

Collector: Great!

Householder: ...I'm going to learn Torah.

(There is silence for a few moments.)

Collector: What?

Householder: I'm going to learn Torah. You said that this is the greatest way that one can help others.

Collector: But... but... there also needs to be financial help!

Householder: Oh, absolutely! But others can do that. I want to help in the greatest way, just like you guys do. So I'm going to learn Torah for you!

Scenario 2:

Collector: Hi, I'm collecting for Yeshivas ***** ******

Householder: Okay. Did your yeshivah go the anti-draft Atzeres Tefillah and say Tehillim?

Collector: Yes, of course!

Householder: Does your yeshivah say Tehillim or a Misheberach for the IDF?

Collector: Um, no...

Householder: So you agree that we need an army, but you protest sharing the burden of army service, and do not even care about those who do bear it. How can you expect others to share in your burden, and care about you?

Scenario 3:

Collector: Purim sameach! I'm collecting for Yeshivas ***** ******

Householder: I'm sorry, I'm not donating.

Collector: But it's a mitzvah to give tzedakah!

Householder: It's a mitzvah to give charity. To the poor. To people who are trying to make ends meet, but can't. Purim is an opportunity to raise money for these people, who struggle to pay for a Purim seudah; it's not a time to collect for institutions.

Collector: But supporting Torah study is the greatest tzedakah!

Householder: Supporting poor people who are Torah scholars is a great tzedakah. Not facilitating a movement of people who are deliberately choosing not to work, against the mainstream, traditional view in Judaism.

 - BUT - 

These kinds of conversations should probably be had with people who run charedi society, and/or with adults, not with teenagers who are innocently knocking at doors because they have been taught to collect for their institutions. On the other hand, there are precious few opportunities to actually engage with people from that society on these matters. But on the third hand, adversarial one-upmanship is unlikely to change people. So, if you are thinking of actually implementing one of these conversations, please bear these points in mind!

(NOTE: If you would like to give tzedakah in the best possible way, I recommend Lemaan Achai - they focus on getting people back on their feet. They help people from every community - secular, charedi, and dati-leumi, even though they have unfortunately been banned from collecting in some shuls where they help people. Check out their website,


  1. Maybe the points you raised could be used by pulpit rabbis as the basis for the weekly sabbath sermon... that would be very useful. ..

  2. I don't doubt that these scenarios represent the mindset of many chareidim. But am I wrong in detecting some anger underlying your post of clever retorts?

    1. What's wrong with anger?

    2. It just seemed to me to be an angry post with scenarios intended to lull the collector into a sympathetic conversation but ultimately designed to shame them.

      On a more positive note this:

  3. Glad to see that someone else feels strongly about working people who struggle.

  4. I ignore most of the knocks on my door. I give something if they catch me coming or going, but that's because it would be very deliberately cruel and rude to ignore them to their face.

  5. Personaly I ask what they teach. And if they teach something that could lead to earning a living ( a bagrut perhaps for a start?).
    when the answer is no or non-commital - I explain that giving them money is מסייע לדבר עבירה and refer them to hilchot talmud torah in the rambam. chapter 3.
    Who knows - maybe they will even look there out of curiosity.......

  6. I have collected several times for poor people as well as institutions. the last thing these collectors, who have been on their feet for hours, is wise guys answering the door and offering platitudes. If you don't want to give them, send them away with a smile and a shekel, but to offer debates is simply being cruel.

    1. Really? A collector accosts people and pressures them, often aggressively and publicly, putting them in uncomfortable situations before their peers or families, and the "mark" is only allowed to meekly submit and pay up?

    2. any collector who "accosts and pressures" people is most likely a con man and you don't have to give him more than a few aguratot, according to r. chaim feuer.

    3. An honest discussion is fine, but nobody appreciates a wise guy. Making these wisecracks to tired bochurim is indeed cruel.

  7. agree on lman achai, just wonder why this isn't a national model (US as well)
    Joel Rich

  8. The first response is the best, but would probably end up falling flat in practice. It's more effective to simply print off business cards with the following written on it and give one to each collector. It may also be helpful to put one in large on your door.

    כל המשים על ליבו שיעסוק בתורה ולא יעשה מלאכה, ויתפרנס מן הצדקה--הרי זה חילל את השם, וביזה את התורה, וכיבה מאור הדת, וגרם רעה לעצמו, ונטל חייו מן העולם הבא: לפי שאסור ליהנות בדברי תורה, בעולם הזה.

    י אמרו חכמים, כל הנהנה מדברי תורה, נטל חייו מן העולם. ועוד ציוו ואמרו, לא תעשם עטרה להתגדל בהם, ולא קורדום לחפור בהם. ועוד ציוו ואמרו, אהוב את המלאכה, ושנוא את הרבנות. וכל תורה שאין עימה מלאכה, סופה בטילה; וסוף אדם זה, שיהא מלסטס את הברייות

  9. There's little point in debating collectors, the overwhelming majority of whom are nearly and often actually, amharatzim. Even the ones who've spent years in some sort of yeshivah often don't really know anything of substance, yet another indictment of the system. If you don't support them (which is perfectly fine) give them a shekel or a dollar or whatever you wish, and quickly send them on their way. If they approach you in shul simply give the half shrug or show them the "empty hand" signal, and that's it. Neither you nor they have time to engage in pointless debates.

  10. very interesting. I'll remember it the next time you, Rabbi, ask for help.
    I wear a knitted kippah, and live in a chassidish district. Every Friday, a hard core Satmar rav comes collecting, and I help out. I don't agree with a everything he represents, but he's trying to help simple people.

    In case anybody wants to know, I can barely find my way around a gemmmarah, and I don't believe in endless kollel. But our people have always helped out learning, because with that solid base, it would wither and dry up.

    1. 1. I would never ask for help for personal needs if I wasn't trying to help myself.

      2. If this Satmar Rav is trying to help poor people who are struggling, great!

      3. Our people have always helped out learning, when without that solid base, it was going to wither and dry up. Nowadays, we have the opposite problem - too many people learning instead of providing for their families.

  11. Is this some sort of purim joke? You have asked the public to help you in your enyclopedia and museum. Of course this is greatly beneficial for klal yisroel in educating them on monkeys and hippos. That's a good cause and we can solicit funds for that.
    But to help Yeshivot who produce fine bachurei yisrael that delve into the words of our holy tannaim that aint a good cause.
    Rabbi your great. But dear readers of this blog. Look how hatred to Bnei Torah can blind ones eyes.
    Happy Purim to all

    1. I don't get what you don't get. If you are talking about yeshivos and kollelim that are training people to serve Klal Yisrael, then that is a service to the community, like my museum. But most yeshivos are not doing that.

    2. So Benjy, you should agree then that you are free to not give to Rabbi Slifkin's museum if you prefer, because you dont care about monkeys or hippos and dont comprehend the service it provides to the klal, and the rest of the "dear readers" are free to not give to kollel collectors because they don't agree there is any service to the klal provided by mass kollel system which ill-equips its men for self sufficiency and handcuffs them from other more beneficial options.

    3. Learning in yeshiva is automatically a service to Klal Yisroel even if you think it is has overreached itself. Things will balance out in the end. There are growing numbers of modern chareidim who work for a living.

    4. as much as some try to help themselves, making chasanas is very expensive, I talk from experience having made four in four yrs, in some circles, through no fault of the collector, they are required to come up with $ for a dira or no shidukh. You may rightfully claim this system is ridiculous and crazy, but such a person is in need, and therefore needs our help, even if he is working 14 hrs a day.

    5. No, unknown, I don't agree with you. And the reasons have been elaborated on numerous times on countless blog posts by the author at this site for several years now if you are wondering how I can possibly disagree, welcome to reality.

  12. Those who cite the Rambam in this context are revealing only that they have never bothered to study hoes words properly. As is clear, Rambam is referring to people who eschew labor for study instead - SO THAT THEY CAN PROFIT. Their sin, and the Chillul Hashem, is because they have used the Torah for their own purposes, and that is prohibited. For these reasons, this ruling appears in Hilchos Talmud Torah, for one is not permitted to study Torah im order to misappropriate it for worldly gain. This is not a prohibition that applies to most Avreichim, as very few people actually enter Kolle IN ORDER to make a good and easy living. The vast majority struggle mightily merely to make ends meet.

    The Rama that Rabbi Slifkin links to quotes this Rambam nearly verbatim, with the same qualifier: he is addressing those motivated by hope of personal gain. Would this be a blanket prohibition of a Kollel lifestyle, as Rabbi Slifkin and others suggest, and not a specific prohibition related to Hilchos Talmud Torah, the ruling would more rightly be placed in Hilchos De'os.

    1. I don't have the sources in front of me, but I'm pretty sure that the Rambam has always been interpreted as prohibiting taking money for learning or teaching Torah. This position has not been accepted, but it was his position as evidence by those who argue with him and assert that professional Rabbis are needed.

      But could you point out which words you are translating as "SO THAT THEY CAN PROFIT"? I don't see where he says that. He talks about being supported by Charity. No one supported by charity was ever very rich.

      I'm not sure what your argument about Hilchos Deos is. That Perek of the Rambam has a lot of "living advice" and exhortation in it. Your rule about where things should be placed doesn't have sufficient evidence.

  13. Maaseh She'haya (I was the householder):

    Collector: Hi, I'm collecting for a yungerman in Lakewood

    Householder: What is his situation?

    Collector: He is going through a very tough time

    Householder: How tough?

    Collector: He is major credit card debt

    Householder: Ouch, how much?

    Collector: $10,000!

    Householder: I remember when I was at $10,000

    1. Reminds me of a sign I saw hung in a shul in Kiryat Sefer many years ago - an avrech didn't own his own apartment (horrors!), so he was advised to go into debt to purchase one. He wasn't able to make the final payments on the apartment, so he was left paying off a mortgage and still paying rent. My chavrusa commented that we were in even a worse situation than him - we had no apartment at all, so we were obviously not obligated to help him out!

  14. This post is not one of R' Slifkin's finer moments.


    1. I've had an astonishingly diverse range of reactions to this post. Some people thought it was awful, and some people thought it was excellent.

  15. I don't get people who have problems with this post and are making accusations of Jew-hating etc.

    The whole purpose of this blog is to make the reader think critically and gently challenge established beliefs, opening them up for question.

    If you are the sort of person who just believes everything taught in Judaism today, then this blog might not be for you.

  16. Rabbi Slifkin,
    Happy Purim. I likely agree with your sentiment, but your method seems abhorrent. The "Householder" is trapping them, he is welcome to his opinion but he is not welcome to opine in in way so that it causes maximum hurt.

    1. " 'Householder' is trapping them"?! What, did he toss out a lasso as they were strolling down the sidewalk minding their own business and rope them into house so he could instigate a confrontation?!


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