Sunday, June 11, 2017

Kollels and Crocodiles

In the previous post - which received an astonishing twelve thousand hits! - I criticized Rav Nachum Eisenstein's stress on the responsibility of the government to support people in kollel. I pointed out that he does not address the question of whether people have a responsibility to other citizens of their country to try to contribute to the economy rather than to try to drain it.

A person going by the moniker of "Pardon My Skepticism," who, for the sake of convenience, we shall call Dovid, claimed that I was being hypocritical. The basis for his accusation was that at the end of my post, I solicited donations for a new home for The Biblical Museum of Natural History. As Dovid put it: "Why doesn't Rabbi Dr. Slifkin address the question of whether he has a responsibility to other citizens of their country to try to contribute to the economy rather than to try to drain it? Isn't a museum a drain on the economy as well? It certainly doesn't contribute to it."

Dovid is correct in that the museum does not contribute to the economy (except insofar as boosting the economy of Beit Shemesh by bringing people to it; a point that unfortunately seems lost on certain members of city council). But there is more to a country than the economy. There is knowledge, there is culture, there are sports, and, for the Jewish Nation, there is Torah. It is true that not everyone need contribute to the economy; there are other ways to contribute towards society.

Now, I think that everyone, across the spectrum, would agree that The Biblical Museum of Natural History contributes towards society. To date we have hosted over twenty-five thousand visitors from all walks of life, from Amish to Chassidish, to whom we have presented the wonders of God's creation and the meaning of many parts of Torah. We've inspired secular college students with a newfound appreciation for their Jewish identity; we've educated Americans and others about the connection between the animals of our heritage and the Land of Israel; we've fascinated ultra-Orthodox chassidim with a world of nature that they have never seen.

But what about kollels - do they contribute to society? According the mystical perspective presented by R. Chaim of Volozhin in Nefesh HaChaim, absolutely. But it's hard to ground that in clear sources from Torah, Chazal or the Rishonim. While teaching Torah obviously benefits society, learning Torah benefits oneself, not others. Perhaps even more to the point, even if one does point to some statements about learning Torah helping the world, before the rise of mysticism such benefits were seen as a function of merit rather than metaphysical effect. And it's only a merit if it's the right the thing to do. And Chazal and the Rishonim most definitely did not see learning Torah as something that relieves a person of his obligation to support his family. (See too my post What Is The Mechanism Via Which Torah Protects.)

There is another important difference between Rav Eisenstein's perspective and my appeal. There is absolutely no forcing of anyone to donate to the museum. If, God forbid, we were to get no donations and the museum were to close down, it would be personally devastating and the loss of a fantastic resource for the nation, but my staff and I would find other employment. With charedi kollel society, on the other hand, there is no fallback! The people just don't have the education, skills or mindset to earn a living. Even worse, they are bringing up their children with a similar complete lack of ability to make a living.

As I mentioned, the previous post was read by many thousands of people. I'd wager that the vast majority of them agreed with the viewpoint presented here. Unfortunately, only a miniscule fraction of them donated towards the museum campaign. So I'd like to take this opportunity to once again ask that people support this cause - we simply cannot move to a new building without it! As an added incentive, we will soon be announcing special gifts for people who donate over a certain sum - and these will be given to everyone who has donated these sums since the campaign began. So please, for the benefit of everyone, help support this unique institution! Click this link to go to our campaign page. And if you Liked/Shared the previous post on Facebook, please share this one too! Thank you!


52 comments:

  1. My wife and I would not have traveled to Beit Shemesh if not for the Museum. After our visit, we went to a nearby mall, had lunch and even bought something in a Judaic shop in the mall. Thus adding to the economy.

    ReplyDelete
  2. “But what about kollels - do they contribute to society?” I’d clarify - if only to preempt a strawman - that although there are definitely certain kollels that do contribute to society no less than the museum – e.g. kollels whose members are writing seforim or engaged in outreach or teaching and learning with members of the community – this certainly doesn’t cover the entirety of the learning world that Chareidi society seeks support for.
    “According the mystical perspective presented by R. Chaim of Volozhin in Nefesh HaChaim, absolutely. But it's hard to ground that in clear sources from Torah, Chazal or the Rishonim.” I’d be wary of making that claim. There are numerous sources that indicate that the world exists through the merit of Torah study. E.g.: (also v. כד הקמח ענין תורה from R. Bachye b. Asher)
    אבות ו- רבי מאיר אומר כל העוסק בתורה לשמה זוכה לדברים הרבה ולא עוד אלא שכל העולם כלו כדי הוא לו
    סנהדרין צ"ט:- אמר רבי אלכסנדרי: כל העוסק בתורה לשמה משים שלום בפמליא של מעלה ובפמליא של מטה... רבי יוחנן אמר אף מגין על כל העולם כולו...ולוי אמר אף מקרב את הגאולה...
    אפיקורוס כגון מאן? - אמר רב יוסף: כגון הני דאמרי מאי אהנו לן רבנן? לדידהו קרו, לדידהו תנו. אמר ליה אביי: האי מגלה פנים בתורה נמי הוא, דכתיב אם לא בריתי יומם ולילה חקות שמים וארץ לא שמתי
    רשב"ץ אבות פרק א- לפי שכדור הארץ תלוי באמצע ואין לו סמיכות. כמו שנאמר תולה ארץ על בלימה [איוב כו ז], ואין סומך אותו, אלא הבל התורה היוצא מפי התלמידים, כמו שמעמיד האדם בהבל פיו דברים התלויים באויר

    I’d stick with your next challenge: “Perhaps even more to the point, Chazal and the Rishonim did not see learning Torah as something that relieves a person of his obligation to support his family.”
    Btw, I don’t think you fully described the insanity of that interview. I encourage everyone to listen to it. It’s terrifying.
    R Stefansky

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I updated the post to account for those statements:
      "...even if one does point to some statements about learning Torah helping the world, before the rise of mysticism such benefits were seen as a function of merit rather than metaphysical effect. And it's only a merit if it's the right the thing to do. And Chazal and the Rishonim most definitely did not see learning Torah as something that relieves a person of his obligation to support his family. (See too my post What Is The Mechanism Via Which Torah Protects.)"

      As you say, they are talking about the *merit* of Torah study.

      Delete
    2. The statement cited by Rashbatz seems to have mystical connotations to me, and R. Alexandri also doesn't seem to be working with a strict mechanism of merit. I'm not sure it's as clear cut as you propose.

      The origins of the metaphysical understanding are also older than R. Chaim, namely as old as the traditions attested to in the Zohar - although R. Chaim certainly popularized it.

      R Stefansky

      Delete
    3. One also has to consider what תורה לשמה means. If it really meant learning for the sake of learning, there are many Christian theologians and academics who could qualify.

      I would consider תורה לשמה as being in same vein as עברה לשמה. When we say that the latter is excused, it's because the לשמה is for the sake of a positive outcome. We definitely don't mean doing the עברה for the sake of transgressing!

      Delete
  3. I think you capitulated on the "economy" issue too easily. Regardless of its benefit to society, your museum is a business. You pay rent, you buy stuff, you pay salaries and like you said, you generate tourism revenue. Whether or not you operate in the black is separate issue.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. pardon my skepticismJune 12, 2017 at 2:23 PM

      Um, kollels also pay rent, buy stuff, pay salaries, and generate enormous tourism revenue.
      In fact, much of the tourism/real estate boom in Israel is due solely to the thousands of American kollel families who decided to live in Israel-- whose parents are pouring in millions and millions of American dollars into Israel every year to visit, stay at hotels, eat in restaurants, buy apartments, and support their children who live there.
      So it is quite appropriate for Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin to capitulate on the economy issue.

      Delete
    2. 'Much of the tourism /real estate boom'!?!?#?
      No it isnt.

      Delete
    3. And keeping apartments empty that would otherwise be fully occupied by kollel families.

      2. And raising the price of apartments.

      That's how things work.

      Delete
  4. I don't understand how one can compare soliciting funds for any cause to government taxes, which are essentially taken against ones will and used according to political directives. The mitzvah of tzedaka and of supporting those learning torah is on the INDIVIDUAL. If one steals money and uses it for tzedaka - the person whose money was stolen did not give tzedaka! We learn that tzedaka is for the giver more than the receiver (thats why its better to give a little to many people than a lot to one person). Therefore - anyone has the right to solicit funds for their yeshiva, Kollel, museum...etc. The person who donates has a share in that. But demanding government funds does not fall in that category as those paying taxes have no say to where the funds will be allocated.

    ReplyDelete
  5. ליטוואק פון בודאפעסטJune 11, 2017 at 3:58 PM

    The lies has traveled halfway around the world while the truth is still pulling up his trousers.

    The prsak halacha in shulchan Aruch is that it is ok to accept charity and public funds to learn Torah, not just to teach. Unfortunately laziness has people believe half information quoted by those who have not learnt the sugya.

    1. The Rambam in הלכות שמיטה ויובל has no relevance to the Kollel system. It is regarding a tzadik who throws off all worldly desires, he does not join a Kollel that gices a good stipend, he does not warm up his soup and does not put sugar into his tea.
    2. The Tashbatz is clear that Chazal did NOT work, and he explains the various Gemoros differently to the Rambam.
    3. The Tashbatz is clear that even someone who does not teach Torah should be supported by the public.
    4. The Remo in the Shulchan Aruch quotes this Tashbatz as codified halacha.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here is a direct quote from Tashbatz: "scholars and disciples who waive their entitlements and provide for themselves by the work of their hands, or by making do with less, will see great reward for their efforts, which are considered as piety. It is better for them to take a little time away from their constant study than to depend on the community for their livelihood.”

      Regarding the Remo, see http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2013/05/is-it-better-to-be-supported-in.html. It is wrong to claim that Ramo "quotes Tashbatz as codified halacha." Ramo first cites the view that it is forbidden and wrong for Torah scholars to receive funding, then notes a "yesh omrim," an alternate lenient view that it is permissible for rabbis to receive funding, and then finally cites a further lenient view that even students may receive funding, but even when citing that view he notes that it is still preferable for Torah students to be self-supportive, if possible.

      Delete
    2. ליטוואק פון בודאפעסטJune 13, 2017 at 4:04 AM

      So you are demanding מדת חסידות as a basic halacha? You sure didn't claim that in your posts. You are basically claiming that the Kollel lifestyle is not a midas chasidus and they should better support themselves learning. He does not say that a person should choose not to be a Torah student in order not to accept charity. Not even as a מדת חסידות.

      Delete
    3. The Rema presents Tashbatz in third place, after giving greater priority to views which consider it completely inappropriate to take money for learning. You are claiming that the Remo supports kollel as a lechatchilah. He doesn't; he considers it a a great bedieved.

      Delete
    4. ליטוואק פון בודאפעסטJune 14, 2017 at 4:06 PM

      So you are claiming that third place is less preferable halachically. Is that backed by any source?

      Even if you were right about that, your posts about this topic are disingenuous. Halacha clearly permits the Kollel lifestyle. Halacah does not depend on the student teaching others. Your only gripe could be that it may be בדיעבד and לכתחילה one should try not to rely on others. Nothing about stopping full time learning in order to work, nothing about serving in an army, nothing about joining secular society. Just that the Kollel student should try and set up his life in a way that does not rely on others. Historically, at least in Lithuania/Russia, such people relied on their wife's work (before Kollellim were institutionalized) because they wanted to devote their lives to learning. Today it is mChador a relatively new phenomena too).e

      takI am now takng a comfortable seat to wait for you to admit to your distortions of Halacha.

      Delete
    5. Your presentation of "halacha" is completely inaccurate. There is no such thing as "THE halacha" - there are many views. And what we see among the Rishonim is that in Ashkenaz, financing Torah study was unheard of; virtually all Torah scholars were self-supporting, and financing Torah teaching was only reluctantly permitted by some. In Sefarad, there was financial support for Torah scholarship, but many/most of the Rishonim in these lands limited this license to Torah scholars who were serving in a professional capacity for the benefit of the community, with some extending it to Torah scholars training for such a role. Furthermore, even to the extent that financial support was permitted, it was constantly stressed that the ideal is to be self-sufficient. There are many statements in the Mishnah and Talmud about the problems with taking payment for Torah, and about the value of being self-sufficient, and the Rishonim maintained this value system. You, on the other hand, are trying to reform it.

      Delete
    6. Halacha was more or less codified in Shulchan Aruch, and unless you have a clear proof, you have no right to demand we ignore the hundreds of years between today and the Rishonim to change the system back to the way it was then. Rabbonim took a salary for the past couple of hundred of years, and organized Kollelim are over a hundred years old, when the codifiers adopted the opinion of the Tashbatz, rejecting firmly the Rambam's opinion. Wives working to support husbands' learning is a few hundred years old, and rich people giving people money to support their learning is a couple of hundred years old. All this is permissible according to the Shulchan Aruch that we follow.

      You consistently claim that the Kollel system is against Halacha, refusing to admit that the Rema disagrees with you.

      You have yet to back up your statement that the third opinion is the least Halachic.

      And the main point has not been addressed. The Remo is discussing two options, people devoting a life to learning whilst taking money from others vs. devoting a life to learning and not taking money from others, either through doing a tiny amount of work, enough to scrape by, or through the wife's work. Nowhere does he say that a person should ideally give up on a life devoted to learning Torah in order to be self sufficient. That is your own addition to the Remo. The source of the Remo, which is the Tashbatz, makes clear that the point of allowing Lomdim to take a stipend is in order to allow for more learning. If you have a better solution to assist people to devote their lives to learning, please share. But support from others is the historical method of doing it, at least for the last couple of hundred years.

      Delete
    7. I think that the halachic picture is adequately clear. Rambam's complete ban on any rabbi/student accepting funding has always been an outlying view. The norm has been to permit rabbonim to take a salary. Even the Tashbatz describes the justification in terms of supporting people who serve the community, and only reluctantly permits students to receive support, maintaining that it is still preferable for them to learn less and not rely on the community. Kollel started about a hundred years ago and was originally a rabbinic training school. Supporting plain learning was always something that was the optional choice of wives and rich people. The norm always remained that a person's duty in life, if he is not training to be a rabbi, is to support his family. It's only in the last few decades that this changed.

      Delete
    8. For those who have not actually seen the Tashbatz inside, you may be convincing. But anyone who has actually learnt the Tashbatz will recognize the distortion in your words. He is not ‘reluctant’ in the slightest, he says this is the only way to ensure that Torah stays with us.
      I am still waiting for answers to the other questions.

      Delete
    9. @ליטוואק פון בודאפעסט: I'm not sure where you are going with the Tashbetz. The Tashbetz says the public must support Talmidei Chachamim in accordance with their honor. The Chareidi system leads to a complete bittul of that mandate. The Charedi public is not working and thus not supporting their Talmidei Chachamim who remain "dishonorably" poor. There is no path in these communities to decide they want to go to the IDF and then work in a good job to support Talmidei Chachamim, or even to do so to support their own children in pursuit of Torah Study. What happens is a rote funneling of *everyone*, Talmid Chacham or not, into a path that the Shulchan Aruch calls dangerous: no work.

      There might be good reasons for their system, but it differs greatly from that described by earlier authorities.

      Delete
  6. A person going by the moniker of "Pardon My Skepticism," who, for the sake of convenience, we shall call Dovid.

    Spot on! And still so elegantly stated!

    ReplyDelete
  7. How is the museum not a contribution to the economy? I guess that means that all forms of entertainment do not contribute to the economy - art shows, performances, plays, movies, concerts....The fact that in this case you learn Torah is a bonus. But why would other forms of entertainment be considered contributing to the economy and this is a drain? In my opinion, it's a pretty flawed argument.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The Tashbatz is clear that Chazal did NOT work, and he explains the various Gemoros differently to the Rambam.

    The Gemara is pretty clear that most everyone worked. The principal editor of the Mishnah was a Nassi. Do you think he ignored his duties and studied Torah all day?

    I say that if claim CHaZaL did not work (in general, there's always exceptions), you are simply a denier of reality, and most probably a liar. And I make no exception for the Tashbatz, if he really made that claim.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What are a Nassi's duties? How much time do they take?

      Delete
    2. ליטוואק פון בודאפעסטJune 13, 2017 at 4:07 AM

      You could of course check the Tashbatz inside if you wanted.

      Delete
    3. Does it matter how much time they take? Let's say they took an hour every day. That's still 1 hour during which he did something other than sit in a Beis Midrash. And you if you think leading the entire Jewish population of Israel, and to some extent, Bavel, was not a full-time job, you really have no clue what it means to be a leader. An academic who answers questions is not a leader.

      Delete
    4. You could of course check the Tashbatz inside if you wanted.

      To what end? Either he writes what you claim, and I believe he's a denier or worse, or he didn't, and you're the one misreading him.

      Delete
    5. You are glorifying ignorance. The Tashbatz explains what happened in the times of Chazal, yet you refuse to even consider the idea. People were willing to support Talmidei Chachomim and these Talmidei Chachomim lived on tiny budgets. It was perfectly possible for the system to work like that.

      Delete
    6. @ליטוואק פון בודאפעסט: Actually, the Tashbetz admits that the Yerushalmi upsets his attempt to prove that a Talmid Chacham would not do "degrading work". While he offers alternate explanations for various Gemaras, he can't really show that his interpretation is superior, and in the one case I mentioned, he admits defeat. Anyhow, what he is doing is not an attempt to see what the Gemara most likely means, but to show that then current practice could not be shown to be blatantly contradicted by the Gemara. He is engaged in a halachic exercise, not a historical one.

      Delete
  9. I think that your second argument is better, and I would make it a bit more explicit.

    The reason that the first argument is problematic is that what "contributes toward society" is something that people will differ on, even if they share an Orthodox viewpoint. So one could argue that the market will decide that one: whoever attracts the contributors stays open.

    The second argument is better: in order to have these public goods, whether or not they are museums, probes to Mars, or Torah scholars making Chiddushim, the general population needs to be gainfully employed. It would be wonderful if the top n% of students could be supported in their learning. The real problem is guiding every single person in the society down a certain path, and indeed forcing down that path by withholding a basic secular education from them, and then kicking out those who choose contribute by doing something else (e.g. joining the IDF). This results in way too many people all trying to participate in the same non-remunerative manner, leading to lots of poverty and way too little public good produced relative to the resources invested. It would make much more sense to encourage the majority to go out and work and support both themselves and the top learners at a decent standard of living. The US Charedi-lite system, while not ideal (e.g. it still relies on the US welfare state to support it), is proof that this can be done.

    One of the most amazing things is that the Israeli Charedim seem so to be so insulated from empiricism that they haven't been clued in to the fact that people can go to college and remain Charedi. The whole premise of enforced isolationism, a holdover from our experience in widespread non-observance as a result of Jewish emancipation in Europe, is no longer necessary. I won't venture to a guess as to what has changed, but it clear that something has and the Israeli Charedim haven't picked up on it yet.

    ReplyDelete
  10. As far as I see it, there is only one way to break this logjam regarding encouraging greater Haredi participation in the work force and that is to end the military conscription of the Haredi community, and to put them on the same footing as the Arabs in saying that for reasons of conscience, they should be exempted. I have spoken to some secular Israelis and they agreed. The problem is that I am afraid that it would be difficult to get support for the necessary legislation because many people would feel (justly) that it is not fair. However, I believe it is important to try to convince them that, for the good of the country, it should be done and everyone, including the Haredim, would benefit in the long run.
    I once spoke to a Rav who is involved in public affairs and I suggested this to him. He told that that when Rabin and the Labor Party got a majority in the 1992 elections, (later adding SHAS to the coalition for a time) that MERETZ did propose a package deal like this, and in turn the Haredim would give up certain demands for things like religious legislation. The kicker was that it was the Haredi leadership that rejected it. They WANT there to be conscription that would apply to Haredim, but that Torah scholars would be exempt. As they see it, having that hanging over their young men's heads keeps more of them in kollel, which is THE most important consideration, overriding things like concern about those who are not cut out for the kollel life.
    It does seem the "Peleg" does want blanket exemption from conscription, so perhaps it might now be possible to convince the Haredi leadership to reconsider such a package deal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Military service should be voluntary for all citizens like in the US. Any policy that distinguishes between groups is discriminatory. I believe a sufficient number of people will volunteer if given significant incentives. There are patriots in this country, just like in the US.

      Delete
    2. Israel is officially at war with Lebanon and Syria, along with all the Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank. When the US will have been at war with Mexico and Canada for 5+ decades, perhaps they'll have a different position on a mandatory draft.

      Seriously. Comparing the military and political positions of the US and Israel is several steps beyond ludicrous.

      Delete
  11. There is knowledge, there is culture, there are sports, and, for the Jewish Nation, there is Torah.

    So, in your view all of the above is on the same level, and their importance is in the order it was stated above? It's quite a revelation on your part.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You needn't read so poorly. First are the general things of any economy, then there is something specific to the Jewish nation.

      Delete
    2. Do you put really value on something when you aren't willing to pay for it and instead hope that someone else will?

      Delete
    3. Calling it as it isJune 13, 2017 at 9:07 AM

      Idiot.

      Delete
    4. @David Ohsie
      Putting aside whether Chareidi conduct is justified, they are willing to endure plenty to get what they value. But maybe this varies from individual to individual.

      Delete
    5. @Shamai: I don't disagree. But there is a difference between the following to things:

      1) I think that this is so important to my life that I will spend a lot of time doing it

      2) This is something so important that I will sacrifice sweat/time/resource from doing what I want to do most in order to support what I want to do most.

      IOW, if I dig ditches so that I can support doing what I want the rest of the day, whether that is pursuing an acting career, looking at slides under a microscope, or Torah study, that shows commitment to outside observer who doesn't have the same passion. If, on the other hand, if I claim my passion is something that is so important that I won't spend my own money on it, but *you* most definitely should, the level of skepticism rises. Everyone would love to do what they are passionate about and ignore all else, but someone that does that is not someone that impresses others with the need to support them.

      From a factual perspective, I went to Yeshiva with guys who learned and did not have families that could just support them even in Beis Midrash. They supported themselves via whatever jobs they could get (as did I as I progressed). I think that this was a much more satisfying way of doing things.

      I think that the top learners (not people like me) should get stipends and be able to pursue Torah without distraction, but they should be supported by people who also think that Torah is super important, and spend time on it themselves, and are willing to work to support those really talented people (for a limited time) who move the discipline forward and at a decent standard of living. This is all much more achievable without the Charedi reform of traditional Judaism that puts make "no work" universal goal.

      But setting aside my opinion, if you want others to think it important to support what you think is important, you need to support it yourself first.

      Delete
    6. So the answer to your original question Do you put really value on something when you aren't willing to pay for it and instead hope that someone else will? is: it is certainly possible, only that if you want to prove it to someone who has no feel for it, exert yourself in a way that he can relate to.

      OTOH, if you want to engage in single-minded pursuit of what you value, you might not be able to constantly sacrifice swaths of time on PR, so too bad -- you'll have to remain unpopular with those people.

      And just as a reminder, I'm still sidestepping the question whether Chareidi conduct is morally justified.

      Delete
    7. So the answer to your original question Do you put really value on something when you aren't willing to pay for it and instead hope that someone else will? is: it is certainly possible, only that if you want to prove it to someone who has no feel for it, exert yourself in a way that he can relate to.

      You assume your conclusion. My question is not "how do you prove it others". My question is "how do you know". I assert that if you are not willing to work/sacrifice for something, then you don't really value it. Having others support what you want to do anyway is not sacrifice.

      I'd also point out that if you don't choose to do something, then the fact that you do it is not much evidence that you care. Since the system is set up in these communities to funnel everyone into the same life and educate them in a way that makes it difficult to choose another life, the fact that they go in that direction doesn't really prove dedication. The fact that they feel that they can only sustain their system by closing off all exposure to the IDF/higher education again leads one to believe that the dedication is not really there. What is there is rote custom for a decent percentage of the population.

      Delete
    8. I assert that if you are not willing to work/sacrifice for something, then you don't really value it. Having others support what you want to do anyway is not sacrifice.

      I didn't realize that you don't accept my claim that they are willing to endure plenty to get what they value. (But maybe this varies from individual to individual.)



      I'd also point out ... is not much evidence.

      Whose sincerity is beyond question?



      Since the system is set up...

      Indeed. Therefore I wrote But maybe this varies from individual to individual.



      In the end, since there's a lack of evidence, go observe and figure 'em out.

      Delete
    9. I assert that if you are not willing to work/sacrifice for something, then you don't really value it. Having others support what you want to do anyway is not sacrifice.

      I didn't realize that you don't accept my claim that they are willing to endure plenty to get what they value.

      Well, if it wasn't Torah, would you come to the same conclusion? For example

      A) Waits tables and does odd jobs to support an acting career.

      B) Sleeps on other people's couches and/or his girlfriend's largesse to support an acting career.

      Which one is sacrificing for what they think is important. I'm not comparing acting to learning; I'm just pointing out that not working and doing what you want instead is not generally seen as a sign of sacrifice.


      (But maybe this varies from individual to individual.)

      I'm sure that it does, as does everything else in the world.

      I'd also point out ... is not much evidence.

      Whose sincerity is beyond question?

      Can you clarify? I don't follow.

      Since the system is set up...

      Indeed. Therefore I wrote But maybe this varies from individual to individual.

      In the end, since there's a lack of evidence, go observe and figure 'em out.


      I'm not sure that there is any real way to measure this. I think that it is more of a value judgement. Not working to support yourself because none of your neighbors do and you will be ostracized to varying degrees if you do doesn't say "sacrifice" to me in any conventional sense, regardless of whether or not you use your free time well. YMMV.

      Delete
    10. Let's back up.

      I assert that if you are not willing to work/sacrifice for something...

      Does the word "sacrifice" include living at/near/closer to - the poverty level? An American fire and brimstone rabbi was known to annually chastise his post-high-school students, "you could have gotten degrees and had big salaries. Instead you came here. If being here is worth so much to you, why aren't you putting in more effort?!"

      For him, sacrifice included letting a lucrative career slip you by. Cause in the US you aren't locked into the non-college world like in Israel where there's a lot of societal pressure.

      But do you mean sacrifice only via working?

      Delete
    11. OK, you are correct. Let's start with the fundamentals.

      First, what is a sacrifice? I think that when people speak of sacrifice they mean that you give up something that by some definition is good for yourself in order to do something that you think is good for others. So you run in to a burning building risking harm to yourself, in order to possibly help someone else. Or you take some of the time that you could be using for your own pleasure in order to provide some service for a person with ill health.

      When you work and get paid in a usual job, you are being paid to satisfy the needs of other people. You could enjoy this very much and get lots of satisfaction from serving these other people and you could fulfill great mitzvot in the course of that service, but you are being paid to give your time to help others in some way.

      Let's say instead that you decide not to work to serve others. You will not be paid by those others, so your choices are to rely on charity from your family or others. You are not being paid for service to others; you instead are doing what you prefer to do (or nothing at all) and relying on others to support you.

      Is this a sacrifice? In return for getting to do what you want with your time, you don't paid. That sounds like a straight tradeoff, not a sacrifice. You are doing what you like to do instead of what other want you to do; as a result you don't get paid and actually require others to sacrifice for you.

      You mention an example of taking a lower paying job instead of a higher paying one (say teaching instead of medicine). If you feel that you could do more good for the rest of the world by teaching even though you'd really, on balance, rather do medicine, then this seems like a sacrifice. The bare fact that you make less money is not necessarily a sacrifice; money is fungible and you can make lots of it, but live simply and sacrifice the rest for others. Also, highly paid jobs also come with other costs like long hours, hard work, higher risk, so just taking the lower paying job is not by itself automatically a sacrifice.

      The example of the person that becomes a teacher instead of physician is besides the point anyhow; no one is criticizing someone that supports themselves at a lower salary. The issue the people have is when a whole segment of society does nothing that others need and are willing to pay for.

      Delete
    12. Chareidim are bombarded from cradle that they can do the most beneficial thing for the whole world by learning Torah even if not teaching it. That they also want to learn Torah, while true, isn't the point. Hence, but I don't know if they say it so bluntly, you and governments ought to give them your money if you want them to keep saving the world. Do or die.

      And again, are you suggesting a course of action (getting jobs) so that they know or show or prove -- that they're doing something valuable?

      Delete
    13. I went to Yeshiva with guys who learned and did not have families that could just support them even in Beis Midrash. They supported themselves via whatever jobs they could get (as did I as I progressed).

      That's the last thing that would happen in these Chareidi yeshivas.

      Delete
  12. @David Do you put really value on something when you aren't willing to pay for it and instead hope that someone else will?

    Are you referring to [subsidized] culture, sport, and let me add it, kibbutzim?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm a libertarian and so think that only truly public goods should be subsidized and that much of subsidized culture and sport is really a subsidy for rich people who can afford to pay their own way. On the other hand, basic research that can't be monetized would be worth supporting, IMO. But that is just my opinion.

      More generally, if people work and put their time and money in to supporting A, B, or C and but think that the government should also use some of their tax money for that or want to raise additional for A, B, or C because they are a public good, then that very different from saying A, B, and C are really, really super-duper important but I'm not willing to any work at all to pay for those super-duper important things. As I mentioned, the result is extremely sub-optimal: a brilliant Talmid Chacham should be supported in his (and IMO her) studies and should not have to be hanging by a thread financially so that every person in the population can do their preferred thing instead of contributing to his/her studies.

      Delete
    2. I still have to pay admission fees to museums and sports and symphonies and plays. The government subsidy is (admittedly) a scam on the public / government. Very similar to the kollel scam. (Maybe yeshivot should charge admission to the general public?)

      Delete
    3. Where I am in Baltimore, MD, USA, the small theaters that get public money have ticket prices that are much cheaper than could possible support the effort. It my be a subsidy for the rich, but it really is a subsidy.

      Delete
  13. So what are the proper criteria for allocating public money?

    ReplyDelete

Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.

Another View On How Torah Protects

A few years ago, in a post entitled What Is The Mechanism Via Which Torah Protects? , I discussed the concept that Torah protects from har...