Monday, December 18, 2017

Did They Teach You This In Yeshivah?

What did they teach you in yeshivah about kollel vs. working? I was taught that kollel is the only legitimate option, and the normative route for a Torah Jew. My roommate in yeshivah, upon telling the Rosh Yeshivah that he was leaving to university, was told "I'm sorry that you're being lost to the world of Torah." But here's a fascinating letter from Rav Shlomo Wolbe:
"I was delving into the topic of Torah Im Derech Eretz which is, ultimately, the foundation upon which live most Shomer Mitzvos in the world. We do not sufficiently relate to this approach, and the result of this is that many Bnei Yeshivah who eventually leave to engage in business and suchlike see this as a contradiction to the life of Torah, which is a great mistake. I head in the name of the Steipler that today's effort to make people stay permanently in kollel is a horaas shaah (temporary decree), and Rav Chaim Kanievsky said that it is reasonable that his father said this. The basic path of the Torah is that a person works for a living and also establishes regular times for Torah study..." (from אגרות וכתבים)

It is deeply ironic that many people in the charedi world claim that the Torah Im Derech Eretz approach of Rav Hirsch was a hora'as shaah, and do not acknowledge that the fundamental societal approach of the charedi world is a hora'as shaah!

It goes without saying that the hora'as shaah of mass kollel, intended to compensate for the losses of the Holocaust, has resulted in there now being far more people in full-time Torah study than ever before in history, with a host of resultant problems. I once heard from Prof. Leo Levi that he asked one of the charedi Gedolim (I forget which one) that surely it is time to officially cancel this temporary decree, and the Gadol replied that he lacks the koach to do so. Alas, this is one of the problems of the weakness of charedi leadership - and the problems of a society which elects nonagenarians as its leaders.

35 comments:

  1. Listen to Rabbi Yaacov Haber's tangent in the middle of his Nefesh Hachaim shiur, starting 28:00. Exactly in line with this approach.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCwekIpMqw0

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  2. In what book is this letter printed?

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  3. "Hoaras Shah" is a fraudulent term. No one ever made a horah of any sort, permanent or temporary. Neither RSR Hirsch nor RA Kotler/ Chazon Ish ever promoted their views in such terms. The term is just a way for opponents to avoid saying a certain philosophy was (in their opinion) simply wrong. Thus, its understandable that no one can cancel it.

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    1. If a ruling is really meant to be temporary, shouldn't the posek indicate how to determine when it no longer applies? The default would then be to leave it in force.

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  4. Do you have any source for ypur definitive statement 'It goes without saying that the hora'as shaah of mass kollel, intended to compensate for the losses of the Holocaust, has resulted in there now being far more people in full-time Torah study than ever before in history'? The statement even goes without saying! Yet there is no proof at all to it.

    Hint: my grandfather told me about the shtetl is not proof. Actual numbers of how many people in each of the thousands of towns and yishuvim might be something. Imagine each had 3. Multiply that by thousands

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    1. Sure. Let's imagine. That's a great rebuttal. Few, if any, towns had a Yeshiva beyond Cheder (elementary school). Try facts instead of imagination. It might serve you better.

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    2. We can get a decent figure of how many people were in the pre-war European yeshivot from things like admission rolls and photographs. The yeshivot of that time were elite institutions that were made for only the best and brightest, and the average people were only educated to what we would call grade school level. The maskilic equivalent of the yeshiva, the gymnasium, was similarly selective.

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    3. So full time learning = yeshiva? Is that the way it always was? Were Yeshivvos all officially registered? Or were they ad hoc institutions surrounding a Rosh Yeshiva?

      Married students were affiliated with anything? Or did they sit in the kloiz with their private chavrusos?

      Learn how to read Yiddish, then read auto biographies of people of the times. There was life before the first world war and it has been extensively documented. Full time learning, with the wife providing the material support, was not an anomaly.

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    4. Yankel, using your numbers, l'didach, say an average of 3 men per community learning full-time. Grant you 10,000 communities (from shtetle to large city), equals 30,000 men learning full time in the pre-Holocaust generation. Out of a population of how many millions? At most, you're talking about 1-2% of the male population.

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    5. Eli - my numbers were guesses, not based on anything. My point was that it is all a bias, not a fact based argument.

      The belief that learning was the most important thing you could do, is not a new one. The pesak that it is ok to take money for learning, unlike the Rambam, is not a new one or a hora'as shaah. The concept of a woman accepting the burden of parnassah so her husband can dedicate his life to learning, is also not a new one.

      The numbers is not the issue. The memoirs of Yechezkel Kotik have been translated. Read them to get a sense of a week's work in Kamenetz. Read Mrs Eliach's book/tome about Eishishok. There is plenty more.

      Organized Kollelim may be a relatively modern phenomena, but so are organized schools. Once upon a time, private melamdim were hired, who taught small groups in their homes.

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  5. My experience was that one of the reasons they don't want you to leave the yeshiva is because they then lose their control over you. The last thing they want is for you to become independent, as long as you are poor and weak you need their help for almost everything.

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  6. Agree.At this point, except for a small elite group, all who study Torah should work. This is self evident and does not require quoting sages or mental gymnastics. We need to get away from this line of argumentation when it comes to something as clear as 2+2=4. If you can find a sage who says 2+2=5 he is simply not worth listening to on that issue. Why?
    1. Many of the most famous sages worked (e.g. Rashi, Rambam etc.). Indeed, some worked very hard but accomplished much in Torah. Working was not beneath these giants but it is beneath today's routine students?
    2. If nobody works, the institutions (plus families, etc.) eventually go bankrupt. This is a mathematical certainty.
    3. As Pirke Avot tells us, if you don't work you will wind up doing aveiras. This is obvious. If you have no skill and you cannot put food on the table, you will venture into unethical behavior, like stealing. Unfortunately,we have witnessed this in our times.
    4. Like many other things, Torah cannot be understood just from "book learning". This is like trying to learn to ride a bicycle just from reading the manual and never getting on a bike. Of course it helps to read the Gemara on the laws of damages. However, when you get out into the real world you realize how much more there actually is to applying what you have learned.
    5. What distinguishes Judaism from other religions is that the whole point is to bring holiness into this world, not to take it out of the world. Hence, going into the Jewish version of a non-celibate monastery obviates the very purpose we are here for.
    6. People in the real world realize the absurdity of what is going on and sour on Judaism as a result. I would call this "negative outreach".
    7. Does anybody really think all of the Yeshiva students are so intently studying for 8-12 hours per day? Who monitors them? Where are their quarterly grades and reports?
    8. Finally, isn't rather clear that the whole purpose of keeping people ignorant and incapable of participating in society is to force them to enable the leaders of the haredi institutions to have a clientele and hence a source of income? It's not the money. It's the money.

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    1. I can't stand when people use the argument that "all the rishonim/tanaaim worked".do you know that the rambam says that you should work no more than 4 hours a day and learn for 9? do you do that?
      you are not following the rambam and other rishonim any more than the chareidim. the issue is that back then a person could earn a decent dignified living by working for a few hours and could use the rest of his time to learn torah. nowadays your lucky if your job is 9 to 5. how are you supposed to learn kol hatorah kula with an hour a day starting age 20?
      thats why it has become widespread to have full time learning in kollel.
      josh millet

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    2. Even if did, it wouldn't matter. Economies in most of the world are quite different than in the Rambam's time. What you might have been able to do then is quite different than what most can do today. And of course, we have the Rambam's own words about his own day. He hardly spent most of each of his working days learning.

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    3. sorry i overstated. see hilchos talmud torah (1,12) where he describes a typical schedule for a normal person. 3 hours working 9 learning. its clear that this was expected to be the norm and quite feasible. its clear that this is what the sages did(see (1,9) there). such a thing is unheard of today.

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    4. Rav Slifkin, he does in Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:12 (although the total is 12 hours, not 13):


      כיצד היה בעל אומנות והיה עוסק במלאכתו שלש שעות ביום ובתורה תשע

      Now, one can limit this statement in several ways. First, Rambam specifies a Baal Umanot, which might be for specific work that can be completed in short amounts of time, or that you are your own boss and can control your hours. Ma she'ein ken with most people in the workforce.

      Secondly, to add to that point, the Rambam himself describes his day as almost completely devoted to exhausting work as a doctor of the Sultan and his harem. He certainly did not keep to the program he advocates for the baal umanot.

      Finally, today is vastly different than it used to be. There was no need to pay for electricity, or heat, or gas, phone bills, etc etc. These basic requirements of today's world require much more from the average person, and therefore more work is necessary than in the Rambam's day.

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    5. I am perfectly aware of that source in Rambam. He is not talking about the minimum number of hours that a person must learn. Rather, he is saying that if, FOR EXAMPLE, a person can support themselves on three hours work a day, then this is what they should learn for the other nine. But Rambam held that if a person cannot support themselves on three hours work, then they have to work more.

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    6. my point is being missed. The rambam is not saying that this is what is required, but you can see from this halacha what rambam considered a feasible schedule for regular people (he is writing hilchos talmud torah for every man as he says explicitly earlier). It was in this context that the tanaaim and rishonim spoke about earning a living and learning. They never imagined a world in which a person needed to work the vast majority of the day to get by. If they lived in our times I would not be surprised at all if they would encourage being supported in kollel for a few years or more in order to fulfill the ideals of talmud torah which can hardly be attained by learning an hour a day.
      josh millet

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    7. Dr. Slifkin:

      Do you have a ma'areh makom for that assertion (that the Rambam held if a person cannot support themselves on three hours work, they have to work more)?

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    8. רמב"ם יד החזקה - הלכות תלמוד תורה פרק ג
      (י) כל המשים על לבו שיעסוק בתורה ולא יעשה מלאכה ויתפרנס מן הצדקה הרי זה חלל את השם ובזה את התורה וכבה מאור הדת וגרס וגרם רעה לעצמו ונטל חייו מן העולם הבא לפי שאסור ליהנות מדברי תורה בעולם הזה אמרו חכמים כל הנהנה מדברי תורה נטל חייו מן העולם ועוד צוו ואמרו אל תעשם עטרה להתגדל בהן ולא קרדום לחפור בהן ועוד צוו ואמרו אהוב את המלאכה ושנא את הרבנות וכל תורה שאין עמה מלאכה סופה בטילה וגוררת עון וסוף אדם זה שיהא מלסטם את הבריות:

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    9. I find it surprising that people think they work more than people in the past. The past was not some idyllic world where people had lots of leisure time. Most people were subsistence farmers or small-scale craftsmen. They worked from almost as soon as they could walk until they died, for long hours, or they starved.

      You think having to pay for electricity means we have to work more hours!? Think of all the electric appliances you have in your home, and how much time you would have to spend doing the laundry, fiddling with the cooking fire, etc. if you didn't have them. Think about what handmade things cost vs factory-made.

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    10. Aryeh,
      1) Your quote of Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:12 is per the printed, non-manuscript, text. Following is the text in HaRav Yosef Kafih's edition:
      כיצד, היה בעל אמנות יהיה עוסק במלאכה שלש שעות ביום ובתורה תשע.
      In note 45 Rav Kafih writes "ובנדפס "והיה" ואינו נכון, כי היא קביעה ופסק, ולא תיאור וסדור דברים." And in the printed [version it reads] "and he was" and it's incorrect, for it's a decision and ruling, and not a description and arrangement of matters.
      (If any of you have ideas on how to fulfill this in today's workforce I'd be grateful if you'd let me know.)
      2) You wrote that "the Rambam himself describes his day as almost completely devoted to exhausting work as a doctor of the Sultan and his harem. He certainly did not keep to the program he advocates for the baal umanot." By what criteria have you established that the letter to this effect is authentic? Does it even purport to be signed by the Rambam? As אלי נגר sarcastically commented on the in-authenticity of the letter attributed to the Rambam לפי עדותו הוא כל היום אצל המלך ולא לומד תורה ומתפרקד על המיטה כך כתב לאיבן תיבון כנראה התייאש מלימוד תורה לא כפי שכתב שכל אדם חייב בלימוד תורה גם בעל ייסורים. See also Rav Kafih's words in the last paragraph of his edition to the Rambam's באור מלאכת ההגיון (p. 3 d"h כן ברור לי כי אותן האגרות המפוקפקות לא אעסוק בהן).

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    11. S. Appel,

      1) I’m not sure how haya versus vehaya changes anything. I already thought he was paskening. But the parameters of that psak can be quibbled with, as I wrote above

      2) I don’t know the scholarship of the letter. I have seen it quoted in articles by thise who do know the scholarship. If the principle objection to the letter is that the Rambam didn’t learn enough, there are several responses I can muster.

      * Rambam referred to the ideal of how to split the day, only if its possible, which wasn’t so for him.

      * He says when he came home he dealt with the line out the door for his halachic psak, so he still learned a lot

      * He also describes his shabbat as completely devoted to Torah

      * He probably didn’t have much choice if he was in the employ of the Sultan

      * Maybe the situation of such long days was a temporary one

      What are the reasons to doubt the letter?

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    12. Aryeh, I should have wrote that note 45 is to the word יהיה (as opposed to the היה immediately after כיצד). So it's not haya versus vehaya, but יהיה עוסק vs. והיה עוסק.

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  7. Who wrote the footnote?

    The footnote claims that the Hora'as Sha'ah is that we (who?) are required to set up Kollel's so that men can continue to learn after marriage without working. The note thus implies that Kollel was always the ideal, and the temporary change was to raise/donate funds for everyone to accomplish that ideal.

    The letter itself implies the goal of remaining in Kollel instead of working is itself Hora'as Sha'ah. Thus the ideal of Kollel itself is the temporary measure and without that, as a rule, one should be working for a living.

    The footnote turns around the meaning of the letter.

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  8. Sorry, I mean, what page of the book.

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    1. I'm still holding by figuring out which book...

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  9. The Torah im Derech Eretz of R Hirsch is nothing to do with with the need to earn a living. The need for the vast majority to be involved in making a living is obvious from lots of sources, and didn't need any chiddush from R Hirsch. It's even paskened in Shulchan Aruch. In fact he barely mentions the issue of livelihood from what I recall. The Torah im Derech Eretz of R Hirsch is about bring God into everthing which is otherwise chol, ie secular studies, daily interactions etc. plus of course your daily occupation. Sanctifying the ordinary if you will. This discussion is therefore nothing to do with R Hirsch since no one here is the slightest bit concerned with that aspect of livelihood as far as I can see.

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    1. I think that what they are getting from R' Hirsch is that this is also an ideal. You go out in the world and live Torah values. As opposed to: unfortunately you have to work and are giving up Chayei Olam.

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    2. You are correct

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  10. The translation of "הדרך המקורית של התורה" as "The basic path of the Torah" is completely incorrect; it should read "The original path of the Torah."

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  11. No, really. What book is this in?

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