Monday, April 20, 2020

The Corona-Kollel Connection

As we have seen, the charedi community unfortunately was initially slack in taking heed of warnings about coronavirus. Rav Chaim Kanievsky and others made tragically mistaken claims of "Torah will protect us." But once reality hit their communities, and hundreds of fine frum Jews in Israel, the UK and the US started to fall very sick and die, they started to take things much more seriously.

Notably, Rav Gershon Edelstein stated that even though the government now permits outside minyanim (under various restrictions), people should not attend them unless they can be certain that the restrictions will be adhered to. He strongly stressed the need to listen to what doctors are saying. Rav Yitzchak Berkovits sent out a letter in which he stated that nobody has the right to claim a reliance on bitachon at the expense of others. The charedi rabbi with whom I had a lengthy argument agreed that once the doctors have made things clear, "One may not rely on miracles." His point was not that it would take a miracle in order to survive this period (thankfully things are not as bad as that), but that once the medical establishment has described the reality, one must respect that, and not presume to rely upon unnatural assistance. And even Rav Chaim Kanievsky has changed from using "Torah protects" as an operational factor to merely paying lip service to it.

The crucial question is: Will the larger lesson be learned?

Meaning: Will the charedi community learn that in general, one must respect the laws of reality, and certainly not rely upon miracles?

Here is a deeply disturbing letter that was forwarded to me a few months ago. It was sent out by an alumnus of a certain yeshivah to other alumni. (I have edited it for clarity and to obscure the identity of the writer). In the first part of the letter, the writer explains the situation in which he finds himself:
We are undeserving of the great chessed that Hashem has done for us to stand here today, being presented with the mitzvah off marrying our daughter to a Ben Torah. Our Gedolim today instruct yungerleit that obligating yourself in the financial commitment necessary to enable the couple to purchase an apartment is what needs to be done. "ועשית ככל אשר יורוך And you shall do according to whatever they instruct." I am not any smarter than anyone else and I too don’t understand the Israel shidduch market obligating parents to purchase apartments for their children.
I have to say that, given the circumstances, I understand the Israel shidduch market completely. Charedi kollel couples in Israel have no prospects to ever be able to earn enough money to buy their own home. The only way for them to ever own their own home is to make the marriage conditional on the parents providing it.

Okay, so the Gedolim say that you have to provide the funds to purchase an apartment for the young couple. What do they say about where these funds will come from? The letter continues (and I have highlight part of it in bold):
The parents need to commit to make a chassunah and purchase an apartment for their children as their hishtadlus to get them married. Rav Chaim Kanievsky instructs parents to commit and the rest will be maaseh nissim, a miraculous act. Rav Gershon Edelstein instructs parents to do the same. He tells them to commit to give up to 700,000 shekel for their daughter. I am good friends with one of the grandsons of Rav Aharon Leib Steinman, who told me that his grandfather advised the same.
That's the instruction?! That's how you avoid poverty and make a marriage commitment to another party? Rely on a miracle?!

Let's leave aside the fact that this runs exactly contrary to Chazal, who said that in a situation of clear risks, one may not rely on miracles. After all, the Gedolim are in any case going against numerous other statements of Chazal, regarding the importance of work, and of raising one's children to be able to provide for themselves. Let's just talk about basic common sense. How on earth can you tell people to commit to giving three-quarters of a million shekels and to trust that these funds will miraculously appear?

Since you can't rely on miracles in the real world, people are forced to reaching out to everyone they know, to beg for money and to ask them to beg others for money. The letter continues:
ברוב בושה וכלימה I approach you all my dear friends once again, to ask for your help to assist us in getting through and completing this מצוה של הכנסת חתן וכלה. The biggest help would be to ask you all to daven for Hashem to have רחמי שמים to send us the funds needed to fulfill our financial obligation. I would be very appreciative to anyone who could say תהילים קפיטל כג for us to come up with the outstanding 483,000 shekel. If you could reach out to others and ask them to direct some of their מעות מעשר in our direction that would enable us to expand our close knit circle and be מזכה them with this מצוה as well. Finally, if it weren’t too much of a חוצפה ועזות if anyone has some extra מעשר כספים that can be directed to help us meet our financial obligation for this couple, we would be forever grateful to you for that.
It's just tragic. These people are in a hopeless situation. They followed the Gedolim to raise a family on a kollel check, they followed the Gedolim to raise their children without the skills or desire to earn a living, and now they are following the Gedolim to make a massive financial commitment that they haven't got a hope of being able to fulfill.

And this isn't even starting with the question of how, if this couple have to beg others to beg others to help them, will their children manage when it's time to marry off their own children? It's a problem that gets exponentially worse. At least hopefully the word "exponentially" is now a word that many more people understand.

Some dear friends of mine asked me why, over the last few weeks, I was criticizing certain Gedolim for their negligent approach to coronavirus. They said that this is not the time for it - this is a time for magnanimity and achdus.

But the point is that coronavirus presents the opportunity to get the charedi community to wake up. Just as you have to respect reality with regard to coronavirus, you equally have to respect reality with regard to working for a living. And you can't abscond your responsibilities by saying "But the Gedolim told me otherwise!" When it comes down to it, the Gedolim are not able to save you from coronavirus and likewise they won't be able to save you from crushing debt and poverty.

For all our sakes, let's hope that coronavirus leads people to wake up. You have to work with reality. And reality requires hishtadlus.

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79 comments:

  1. Last night I watched the film Shadowlands. The film stars the famous well-known actor Anthony Hopkins as C. S. Lewis. In the film, Lewis's wife dies of cancer. Similarly, when Lewis's mother died when he was a child, he prayed deeply, but it made no difference. By the film's end, Lewis concludes that prayer never works. There is a lesson from this: Do not rely on miracles.

    Maimonides did not believe in miracles. The world works according to the laws of nature. Whether you and others agree or not, natural law will not change no matter how passionately you pray for G-d to alter them. Natural law is fixed and needs no change. It is a talmudic principle that “one should not rely on a miracle.” Thus, I agree with Maimonides' view that miracles do not occur. They are unusual, but natural events caused by the laws of nature that G-d created. This may come as a surprise to some, but as the rabbi pointed out, people need to accept reality as it is. Let's hope the charedi community learns from coronavirus and how to make a living.

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    Replies
    1. As the world economies collapse, we have yet to see (cv"s) the suffering that will take place for those who set as a guiding principle "pas bamelach tochal" (except for the million-dollar dirah, of course).

      And this virus (forgive the pun) is in the USA also. Where loads of people think that Learnin is a value unto itself that 'will provide'.

      I find that they neither know their shaas nor reality. It's an amazing thing.

      Delete
  2. ********************April 21, 2020 at 12:01 AM

    So how do they do it?

    Chareidim get married, no? Is the marriage rate lower than elsewhere? I don't think so. Do they live on the streets? I don't think so.

    So something is wrong in the 'facts'.

    So explain. A decade ago you confidentaly reported that the chareidi society is on the brink of financial collapse. That hasn't happened either.

    L'masah - how do they manage?

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    Replies
    1. *****, you sound like a guy in late February in Italy or NYC saying "But you said 2 weeks ago this virus was going to be a big deal here and, look, cases are so low and nothing major has happened"

      Delete
    2. How do they manage? It's very simple. Most parents ignore the command / suggestion to provide the down payment for a house and the married couple rents the smallest and cheapest apartment they can, without ever having a hope of buying. It's simple to go ahead and get married. It's much more difficult to financially manage a married life that could extend over 50 years together. The "providing a down payment" model that is described in the article worked (more or less) when housing was relatively cheaper and both parents were working. However, today we are in the fourth generation, at least (in Israel) where many male Haredim are either not working or working in positions that pay next to nothing because they have no real skills (because of a lack of secular education). Most Israeli couple struggle on two salaries and with smaller families to obtain housing. And as time goes on, that struggle becomes harder as housing costs rise above the increase in wages. This is easy enough to verify with current statistics. So how do the Haredim manage to marry? Simple: They marry while ignoring financial realities. If that is too hard for you to understand, then you are ignoring the reality of where poverty is most outstanding in Israeli society.

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    3. They survive because they live in a first world country (for now). Same as everyone else who lives in a first world country and has no financial independence (typically) doesn't starve. However the exponentially higher growth rate of thr charedi community means that ultimately the situation is untenable ad infinitum. Something has to give at some point. As with most exponential situations it can be bloody difficult to predict accurately when that point is exactly, but super easy to predict that it must come at some point.

      Note that financial collapse of the system is not the only possible outcome. Breaking the exponential growth rate could work too (as could other things, some of which would only push out the problem).

      Delete
    4. I agree with you Yoni2 about the collapse, but there is a third route and solution to this problem. The government could erect a "pay as you go" policy for the Haredim. That means absolutely NO subsidies for anything. You pay and you get and if you don't, then you don't get and that means even things like electricity, water and other essential services. Now this probably won't happen (although for regular working folk it does happen -if you don't pay a bill, service is indeed cut off) because here we are dealing with a large sector of people. Israel is a very charitable society and wouldn't want to see a lot of children suffer because their fathers are too ignorant to see the economic light. But what we have now is a (highly) growing demographic being supported by demographic that is not growing as much. The former produces nothing, economically and the latter supports themselves and the former demographic. Some in the latter are getting fed up by the increasingly larger taxes to support the former and are leaving the country. And yes this has been verified by research. That situation will only get worse as the taxation pressure increases. So that could eventually lead to the unthinkable solution I suggest above.

      Delete
    5. ********************April 21, 2020 at 2:31 PM

      JD, who is the only person who remotely addressed my specific point.

      In other words, JD, you are agreeing that this post is based on false premises and history. It simply doesn't happen in the way described. Which renders the whole post of historical interest only.

      "Simple: They marry while ignoring financial realities. If that is too hard for you to understand, then you are ignoring the reality of where poverty is most outstanding in Israeli society."

      You can't just 'ignore' financial realities. I can't just throw all the bills I receive in the bin and expect nothing to happen. I won't happen overnight, but something wil eventually happen.

      So again, do you have the proper explanation for 'how they manage'? I certainly don't. Actually I think I do, I think a lot more work than these anti-chareidi bloggers are ever prepared to concede. Because they prefer a narrative of sitting in the beis hamedrash doing nothing.

      Delete
    6. @JD
      I don't think your solution is really tenable (not to mention not particularly moral). It will be sad indeed if the only way out of this is to see significant numbers of people starving to death literally, which would happen under your suggestion.

      Delete
    7. In response to the whoever asked: "So again, do you have the proper explanation for 'how they manage'? I certainly don't. Actually I think I do, I think a lot more work than these anti-chareidi bloggers are ever prepared to concede. Because they prefer a narrative of sitting in the beis hamedrash doing nothing." Mt response is:
      Let's say that many more Haredim work than we know. The only way that this could happen is if it is in the "black market" without declaring their work or income, while still being registered for Yeshivot subsidies. If the work was registered, we would know of the statistics and it would be recorded. Now if it is in the "black market", it means that it is likely underpaid, and unskilled labour which doessn't pay much, so it isn't helping their large families very much. It also means that it is un-taxed, and doesn't benefit the wider system. Also is it fair to those who declare all of their incomes? It is still a law to declare income if you are getting it. I won't go into the halachic implications of this, as there are greater experts than me. But this is considered theft under Israeli law.

      As for Yoni2's response to what I said, you didn't read carefully what I wrote. I said it was a solution but I also said that it was unthinkable as it would penalize a lot of children because their fathers are irresponsible. Still, in society when people don't pay their bills service is shut off. Now as it is, a small but high earning cohort is supporting a lot of Haredi families and some of them will get frustrated and leave the country (which is supported by statistics) and that will create an even larger spiral downwards. So eventually the Haredim will lose support when there really is no more money in the system. So it is a matter of when we start pressuring them with the only tool that works, NOW or when it is too late. In no other country would this be allowed on such a large scale. So even if we can't cut them off completely, select economic pressure by the government is the only solution that could (and has worked and again the stats show this).

      Delete
    8. ********************April 21, 2020 at 9:06 PM

      JD,

      Nice shifting of the goal posts there. We are not discussing the amount that they make from their work, whether or not they pay tax, whether it is skilled or unskilled labour (is a bookeeper skilled or unskilled by the way?, I know several who work part time as a bookeeper), how it helps or doesn't help their 'large' families etc. We are discussing whether they work or not, period.

      But in any event, if my theory is wrong, the question comes back - How do they manage.

      Delete
    9. I didn't shift the Goalposts at all. You cannot manage, if you aren't making the necessary salary. And you can't manage to get that salary if your education doesn't lend itself to getting the skills for making an adequate salary. So again I maintain that they are not as you keep on insisting able to manage. Yes they marry and then get launched into a lifelong path of poverty. Just check the statistics (which you obviously didn't). Again, it is easy to marry, but to sustain that marriage and subsequent family, as I said is much more difficult. They do get money from their parents, subsidies from the government, stipends from the Yeshiva, and take out constant loans, but again the statistics show that most Haredim are poverty stricken. Marriage? Yes they manage; however, their married life is constantly interrupted for most by constant rounds of poverty for most. If you cannot understand that then it's you with a reading comprehension problem. Try distinguishing the question: How do they marry (?) which is a one time act. However the next 50 years or so is where the poverty lurks its ugly head. I said the exact same thing above. If it's not clear enough for you, that's your problem, Mr. Anonymous.

      Delete
    10. JD,

      I know all the statistics. But I trust the evidence of my own eyes more.

      The clothes that these chareidi young girls wear for weekday are more beautiful than what my girls wear on shabbos. How many homeless chareidim are there? How many living in the dark because they can't afford electricity? How many are homeless because they can't afford the rent? How many don't get married through lack of funds?



      Chareidi kids sure don't look as if they are living in poverty. They do not look starving and emancipated. They blay'h look a picture of health.

      They buy nosh in the makolet that costs more than in the UK. In fact the food prices in the supermarkets in chareidi areas are higher than in the UK. Who are they selling to, if not chareidim? How do they stay in business? How can chareidim afford to buy from them?

      So statistics be d*****d, how do they manage?

      Delete
    11. The official statistics for Chareidim in the workforce: 56 percent of males and about 80 percent for females

      Delete
  3. I agree with just about everything you are saying, but I have to say it's pretty nauseating to read this line, "For all our sakes, let's hope that coronavirus leads people to wake up." You act like you are 100% perfect and have nothing to work on, and the rationalist community has nothing to work on. All that is wrong in the Jewish world is the chareidi way of life and you just need to fix that and then everything will be just dandy. Do you not realize how self-rightious this sounds? Do you think that is the intention of Chazal of יפשפש במעשיו?

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    1. Oh, I have PLENTY to work on. But my personal flaws, and the various flaws of the non-charedi community, are not flaws that pose a serious threat to the very future of Israel. One third of first graders in Israel are in an "educational" system which teaches them to avoid professional careers.

      Delete
    2. Nonsense! The ban and your animosity towards chareidim came first. Then you needed to scapegoat and rationalize that anger, so you came up with this brilliant idea that chareidim are a threat to the security and economy of the country. Proof is this blog.....just trace the progression it started with science morphed into addressing the ban. Finally it has morphed into a Chareidi trashing blog.

      Despite this revealing comment, the charade of self righteousness will continue....

      Delete
    3. So what you're saying is that HKBH believes that we need to be more concerned currently with the flaws of the Chareidi world than that of the modern and secular world...I would agree.

      Delete
  4. Coronavirus is an opportunity - an opportunity for endless, mindless sectarianism of all kinds. It was the Chinese, the Americans,the Russians (that take from Ami magazine a little unexpected), the Europeans, and now the Africans. It was the 5g masts, it was Trump, it was Gates, it was Soros. It was the Millennials, the disaster Capitalists, the partiers in Tel Aviv, the Arabs, the rich people on holiday, the Chareidim, the Zionists. Of course, it was the Jews.

    The Charedi community don't read your blog - only English speaking sycophants. Knock off the charade of paternalistic benevolence - this is low grade obsessive bigotry, coming from a deep place of personal hurt. Maybe after 10 years you need to let something other than the herem define you?

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    1. Actually, plenty of Anglo-charedim read my blog. And I am motivated neither by benevolence nor bigotry nor bitterness over the ban, but rather by anxiety for the future of my own family in a country where the economy is threatened so severely by the charedi lifestyle.

      Delete
    2. If you have anxiety, you are clearly lacking in bitachon - even if you are correct about how much hishtadlut a Jew should do, that doesn't cancel out the mitzvot of emunah and bitachon; and all the sources say that bitachon leads to not being anxious.

      I don't see anything novel from you in this article. So I am looking forward to the day when -instead of ranting on about doing more hishtadlut- you will tell us what is the mitzvah of bitachon according to "ratoinalist judaism".

      Delete
    3. @ the hat

      It's not just charedim that this blog is useful to. It's useful to potential charedim (reasonably about any youngish religious jew) or people who see charedism as the opitome of Jewishness thereby encouraging people to support or move towards that system. Unfortunately the latter group includes way too many in influential positions within the MO world. The MO world really needs to see charedism as an unfortunate offshoot of Judaism. I'm not saying they need to cut them off entirely. I'm saying they should be treated as a nebech part of the community who have unfortunately bought into a cult and as a somewhat dangerous group as their views can be enticing. Theeadership of the MO community should treat the yshiva system with the same scepticism as many irreligious parents who see their kids go off to Israel for a gap year and worry that they may be sucked into the religious world do. Currently that is very much not thr case.

      Whether this blog helps bring that about or not remains to be seen, but for certain preaching only to those in bnei brak is not the way forward.

      Delete
    4. There are many charedim who don't fit your anxiety producing caricatures. Like the brave and committed journalists from B'chadrei Chadarim who filmed the minyanim at R'CK's flat. You elide together the hardened Lederman crew with the Kollel-lites of Mem Gimmel, the naive olim of RBS, and the "Shetach Palestini" sikrikim of Meah She'arim. They're all different, and not in a subtle way either. But - this is the key bit - we all have far more in common that which divides us.

      The problem is sectariansim. You are a sectarian. You see Israel as a series of competing "camps", and you have no room in your vision for the despised people of a different camp. Unfortunately, like you, the majority of Israelis are also sectarians. It is hardly surprising that the country is so corrupt and dysfunctional on so many different levels, and it starts with a segregated sectarian education system.

      Delete
    5. I am anglo-charedi and read his blog. love him or hate him, you cannot dismiss him. He lets in all reasonable (and some non reasonable)counter arguments. Whats not to like?

      Btw we could do with some humour in these times. Could you publish the 'charedi' post that Rashi knew with ruach hakodesh what he was going to write before he wrote it, or something like that.

      Delete
    6. waterman613
      where exactly is the source of the mitzva of emuna/bitachon?

      Delete
    7. wonderingjew, here is a quote from fourth gate of Chovot HaLevavot:

      ראיתי להביא אחריו מה שהוא צריך יותר מכל הדברים לעובד האלהים, יתברך, והוא הבטחון עליו בכל דבריו, בעבור מה שיש בו מן התועליות הגדולות בענין התורה ובענין העולם. ותועלותיו בו בתורתו, מהן - מנוחת נפשו ובטחונו על אלקיו, יתברך, כמו שהעבד חייב לבטוח על אדוניו, מפני שאם איננו בוטח באלקים בוטח בזולתו, ומי שבוטח בזולת ה' מסיר האלקים השגחתו מעליו ומניח אותו ביד מי שבטח עליו

      Delete
    8. @ The Hat:
      What are you so afraid of, guy? Tell us where the blogpost hurt you

      Delete
    9. watermelon 613
      ok i see that the chovat halevavot thinks that bitachon is beneficial. is this your source that emuna/bitachon is one of the taryag mitzvot?

      Delete
    10. wonderingjew
      I did not mean that bitachon is one of the *taryag* mitzvot.

      However, Yirmiyahu the prophet says (17:5): כֹּה אָמַר ה' אָרוּר הַגֶּבֶר אֲשֶׁר יִבְטַח בָּאָדָם וְשָׂם בָּשָׂר זְרֹעוֹ וּמִן ה' יָסוּר לִבּוֹ .
      And then two verses later (17:7) adds: בָּרוּךְ הַגֶּבֶר אֲשֶׁר יִבְטַח בַּה' וְהָיָה ה' מִבְטַחוֹ:
      How are we to obtain this brachah and avoid this klallah?

      And Psalms (37:3) reads: בְּטַח בַּה' וַעֲשֵׂה טוֹב with verbs in the imperative.
      And two verses later (37:5) גּוֹל עַל ה' דַּרְכֶּךָ וּבְטַח עָלָיו וְהוּא יַעֲשֶׂה again with the verbs in the imperative.
      And later in (55:23) הַשְׁלֵךְ עַל ה' יְהָבְךָ וְהוּא יְכַלְכְּלֶךָ also with the verb in the imperative.
      And in (116:9) יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּטַח בַּה' עֶזְרָם וּמָגִנָּם הוּא also with the verb in the imperative.

      Furthermore the Ramban, a rishon who highly respected the Rambam and “defended” him in the face of those who banned the Moreh Nevuchim (as can be seen in his letter to them) wrote the following:
      אין לאדם חלק בתורת משה רבינו עד שנאמין בכל דברינו ומקרינו שכולם נסים אין בהם טבע ומנהגו של עולם, בין ברבים בין ביחיד, אלא אם יעשה המצות יצליחנו שכרו, ואם יעבור עליהם יכריתנו ענשו, הכל בגזרת עליון כאשר הזכרתי כבר ....
      It is more than fair to say then that the Ramban understood that the Rambam believed that בכל דברינו ומקרינו שכולם נסים אין בהם טבע ומנהגו של עולם, and if so, how exactly did the Ramban understand the Rambam? Certainly not in nay way like RDNS does.

      My question stands (even if you want to argue about whether or not bitachon is a mitzvah): What is bitachon according to "ratoinalist judaism"?

      Delete
  5. The failure of "The Torah protects" to actually protect and overcome a lack of practical hishtadlus taken against the virus (via social/physical distancing and other measures) is equal to what would be the degree of failure of "The Torah protects" to protect and overcome a lack of practical military hishtadlus against our enemies.

    In both cases, a total and utter failure. The principle being pushed on the charedi public is a fabrication, and the parallel to military matters should be clear and hopefully will be understood by people from this experience. Nowhere did the Torah say, "learn Torah and you won't have to do other mitzvot or practical measures in society to keep yourself alive and healthy." Nowhere.

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    1. student v,

      you make your point that torah does not protect with great confidence. i'm wondering, is your belief that the torah does not protect subject to falsification? is there any constellation of facts that would lead you to question that assertion, or can all facts simply be explained away in some fashion or another, such that the assertion will never be brought in to question?

      here's my thought experiment. the hypothesis states that mortality from covid 19 is dictated by strictly predictable natural rules. as such, those charedi areas that were late to practice social distancing will have a statistically significant higher per capita mortality than comparable areas that practiced social distancing earlier.

      we can use bnei braq as our test case, since we have been informed on this blog that bnei braq was late to practice social distancing specifically because of a belief tat torah protects.

      so far the per capita mortality in bnei braq (per statistics released by the health ministry for the first 100 people to die from covid 19) have been well below the national average. we were informed on this blog by NS that the reason for that is because it takes so long for people to die from covid 19, and that eventually BB will demonstrated the expected higher mortality. i think that 2 more weeks would be a reasonable time frame to wait.

      if that pans out then it will not be cause for you to question the hypothesis, but if in fact BB does not demonstrate the expected higher mortality, will that cause you to question your
      hypothesis? what about the world view upon which it is based?

      Delete
    2. Anonymous

      The infection rate is higher than the national average in BB, as would be expected since they started social distancing at a later stage.
      I'm not sure what your claim about the death rate is. The argument for social distancing is to avoid an influx of patients into the hospital at once, so as not to exhaust resources. Tg this hasn't happened (yet). The disease in and of itself is not exceptionally deadly.
      If, of course, thousands of people were dying everywhere else and the mortality rate in BB was exceptionally lower, this would warrant closer inspection. But the evidence would have to be substantial.

      Delete
    3. Frum communities in NY were the hardest hit by covid19 of anywhere in America. Where was the automatic "protection" by all the Torah frum Jews in NY learn? They learn a lot.

      The principles of Judaism are not decided by experiments, as far as I know.
      The concept either has a source behind it from the Torah or it doesn't. The idea that "learn Torah and you won't have to do other mitzvot or practical measures in society to keep yourself alive and healthy" has no source.

      If you wish to refute that, go ahead and try. Citing death statistics in bnei braq doesn't even address the question.

      Delete
    4. @student v:
      The issue anonymous is raising is a valid one.
      RDNS decided that this health crisis and how it affected Bnei Brak under RCK's direct instructions is THE test case for Daas Torah. This was his parameter. To change parameters to include Chareidim in U.S. and UK is what we call cheating to avoid admitting to a humiliating defeat.
      Much worse than "loshon horoh, impure motives, and not achieving anything", RDNS is now desperately trying to deceive his readers into thinking he has really won this argument against Daas Torah when he has lost it decisively.
      He'd rather shift the conversation back to economics where he is on much better footing.

      Delete
    5. @Dovid Kornreich

      No, it's not valid.

      The claim from bnei brak WAS "the Torah protects" and that this is in place of practical actions to mitigate the spread of the virus. And we don't have to worry about mitigating spread because Torah will protect regardless. Case numbers exploded in Bnei Brak relative to other parts of Israel. Having yeshivot and kollelim full of men learning Torah INSTEAD of social distancing (practical actions) did not protect from the virus. It did the opposite. It failed to protect.

      Israel has had relatively few deaths overall from coronavirus, thank God.

      I don't know why you are so convinced that deaths per capita from coronavirus in Bnei Brak is low relative to the rest of the country, but it is not. Relative to the rest of the country, Bnei Brak was one of a few hotbeds of case numbers. From what I read, less than 200 people in Israel died from coronavirus so far, which to me is already a remarkable public health success story. Just look at what's going on in the rest of the world!

      But had the principle of "the Torah protects" not been surrendered, Bnei Brak case numbers, and unfortunately deaths, would have continued to skyrocket. The math isn't difficult - Some small percentage of cases will result in death, and therefore the more cases, the more deaths. The precise Case Fatality Rate can vary due to many factors and variables in different locations, including even demographics, but it is typically within a range of 0.5%-2% for this virus, and also depends on how extensively countries are testing. When the spread went out of control and hospitals were overwhelmed in Italy with too many cases and could not provide proper care to those who did get the virus, CFR spiked to as high as 8% at the peak. (Limited by how extensive testing was, so not an absolute number, but it doubled from the Italian CFR of mid-late February). That is all the more reason it is important to keep case numbers in check and not let them run unimpeded. Not to mention, this disease causes damage to organs even in some cases where the patient survives, and no one would claim a hospitalization for respiratory illness, or an increase in the numbers experiencing that, is in any way a good thing that reflects "protection." But not the main point here.

      Hopefully for Bnei Brak it was caught in time and the course correction will save many lives. If it was caught in time where the outbreak was still in early stages, you don't get to claim "success" for having been slow to act and experiencing an outbreak in cases, but then catching it and stopping it by CHANGING THE RESPONSE to something OTHER THAN what you said would have efficacy!

      Delete
    6. @student v:
      you said:
      "I don't know why you are so convinced that deaths per capita from coronavirus in Bnei Brak is low relative to the rest of the country, but it is not."

      That wasn't the bar set by RDNS. His claim was that Daas Torah has failed the Chariedim because the deaths in Bnei Brak would be HIGHER than those in the rest of the country who followed the health guidelines immediately. I never claimed they are lower, but they are certainly lower than everyone predicted in Bnei Brak. Which means Daas Torah did not fail them and RDNS doesn't get to claim it failed them.

      "If it was caught in time where the outbreak was still in early stages, you don't get to claim "success" for having been slow to act and experiencing an outbreak in cases, but then catching it and stopping it by CHANGING THE RESPONSE to something OTHER THAN what you said would have efficacy!"

      You missed the point, Anonymous proposed that if the high total infection number in Bnei Brak should statistically produce x number of deaths, and a lower number actually resulted, that would require some kind of explanation. One explanation could be "the Torah protects".
      The fact that Bnei Brak eventually changed their response doesn't retroactively make the statistical likelihood of death from total infections lower.

      Delete
    7. "but they are certainly lower than everyone predicted in Bnei Brak."

      That's a straw man argument. The deaths are some fraction of case numbers. In ANY location. There will be more positive cases (and therefore higher absolute number of deaths, which are a percentage of the cases) in places which do not employ mitigation tactics. Blogowner's complaint was about Bnei Brak failure/refusal to implement mitigation by keeping yeshivot open, producing a surge in case numbers. That surge in case numbers will result in higher absolute number of deaths from the virus than compared to, say, if no one had been infected. Or half the number had been infected. Or some other fraction of total that would have resulted. Surely you don't disagree with that.

      No one can predict an absolute number of deaths (And I didn't see anyone here do that), just as they cannot predict an absolute number of cases (that was very difficult for the modelers and epidemiologists who especially could not account well for societal level mitigation), and cannot state a precise prediction of CFR without deriving it from the data retrospectively. The idea that some specific massive number (or numbers) of deaths, or the CFR, was predicted here (for Bnei Brak) and didn't come true, is a straw man.

      If you claim it's not a straw man, back up these assertions with evidence please.

      The CFR will also always depend on the extent of testing, (to determine denominator), so it's an approximation with too much artifact from selection bias. This is only to say that whatever the precise CFR is reported for Bnei Brak isn't exactly of interest here and would be fairly meaningless to compare with other locations, whether it's higher or lower. UNLESS it ballooned because the system couldn't handle the degree of patient influx and didn't have enough resources for proper care. To my knowledge that situation didn't materialize in Israel, but the rightful concern was that it could get there if we let it.

      Since that COULD happen due to too many cases too fast (like it did in Italy), that is why what was going on in Bnei Brak with its surge in cases had to be acted upon. For everyone's sake.
      Concern expressed previously by blogowner was about what the situation develops into with exponential growth in cases (viruses spread exponentially). A key thing with virus outbreak is to be proactive.

      Demographic distribution also highly influences CFR in any given location. (See south korea and early case of superspreading event to 30's female demographic and how that skewed demographics and early CFR lower for example). Different formulas on how to treat patients are also being tinkered with and no one really knows how to optimize care for these patients to keep them alive, so even CFR at different hospitals could vary. CFR is just not the relevant issue to this topic.

      "the high total infection number in Bnei Brak should statistically produce x number of deaths, and a lower number actually resulted, that would require some kind of explanation"
      He provided no such evidence of that. Not one piece of data nor a single number was provided in his thought exercise.
      No explanation is required to explain a hypothetical idea in Anonymous's mind that isn't actually what occurred.

      You keep claiming this occurred (or alluding to a possibility that it did) but present no evidence that it did. It is merely your wishful thinking.
      And if you want to suggest that it isn't, then bring some kind of evidence on which to base these assertions.

      Delete
    8. student v,

      my original question to you was whether your belief that torah does not protect was subject to falsification. that is, is there a prediction that can be made based on that belief, that if said prediction fails to materalize, you would begin to question your belief. your answer is essentially that it is not subject to falsification, as the failure of any or all predictions to come true, can always be explained away post hoc in some logical manner.

      the fact that your belief is not subject to falsification does not meen that it is not true, but it does meen that is not scientific, and therefore of questionable rationality.

      Delete
    9. My conception: Refusal to social distance results in more cases and deaths.
      This is already a scientifically established principle.

      Since you operate in the manner of a skeptic and insist on subjecting this to falsification, the way to "test" this principle and subject it to falsification is to assess the case numbers in places where yeshivot refused to close. It stands up to this test, as Bnei Brak had a surge in infections.

      Your focus on CFR (Which you refuse to even cite specifically anyway) is misguided for all the reasons I explained. The focus for subjecting my idea to falsification should be on absolute number of deaths, and on case numbers. I don't know how many times I can make this same point. I am clarifying to you HOW to properly subject the idea to falsification.

      What I've just stated to you is a completely separate issue from my dispute of the concept "The Torah protects" as it's being presented here. There is no reason to subject to testing my belief that this "The Torah protects (and replaces hishtadlus)" concept is a falsehood because since when are science experiments the method to determine what are the principles of Torah she baal peh and what it is instructing us? That wasn't what they did in my yeshiva. Are you advocating for this radical new approach?
      Either the Torah teaches this concept or it doesn't. It has a basis in the sources or it doesn't. (It doesn't).

      Your conception, "The Torah protects" (and obviates the need for hishtadlus) is a religious principle, not a scientific one. My disbelief in that premise rests on the foundation that this false premise doesn't have a basis or source in Judaism. That will be true, no matter what happens in the world, tomorrow or 100 years from now. Because the Torah says what the Torah says.
      You will attempt to "prove" this concept with all sorts of ad hoc interpretations of history, (therefore making your own BELIEF in this idea non-falsifiable), but it will not change what the Torah instructs us.

      If you are actually presenting it as a scientific concept rather than a Jewish philosophical thought sourced to Judaism, then it should be subjected to scientific method and testing just as any proposed medical solution needs to be in order to conclude it works or not.
      So, since you think it will prevent deaths, if we enroll 1000 patients who need ventilators in one group that will have no "kollel treatment," and then put 1000 patients who need ventilators in the "kollel treatment group" where men will learn in their honor in the kollel while the hospital cares for all 2000 with ventilator treatment, will we see the 1000 people all get their lives saved by kollel learning in their honor?
      Or a lower bar, will we see a statistically significant result in favor of the kollel group?
      You can't possibly believe this, can you?
      I don't think the proponents of "Torah protects" have ever presented it as a form of medication until now, have they?

      Similarly, if you really believe your idea of "The Torah of men learning in Bnei Brak Protects" is a scientific fact, then shut down the entire IDF. You may say I can't predict the result of that because I'm not a navi, but I feel very confident to guarantee you (and it doesn't take nevuah to realize) if we shut down the military, the country would be invaded and occupied - The Torah-learning of men sitting in kollel would not prevent that outcome if we eliminated the military. Scientifically it would be absurd to hypothesize that it would.
      But as a religious philosophical principle, there is no reason taught by Judaism to think it would.

      Delete
  6. Rabbi Slifkin, please stop your campaign of bizui talmidei chachamim. It pains me to think of the kitrug you're bringing upon yourself. I would understand if you were lambasting people who were involved in the ban on your books, as I believe you were severely mistreated and mischaracterized by many of them, but the animosity in your recent posts is really uncalled for.

    I'm reading this in America as a talmid of BMG and graduate of a brick and mortar secular college. We in Lakewood certainly believe that Torah protects, but when the governer announced that schools and institutions of learning would have to close there was no doubt that we would shut down, barring any miraculous change of events. That same day (Wednesday, March 18) a voice message from the yeshiva went out instructing everyone to daven at home. This was before they had even started testing for Covid19 in Ocean County, and before anyone in the community had been hospitalized for symptoms of the virus.

    My purpose here is not to stick up for Lakewood, but to make it clear that even while we took precautions, albeit a bit late, doing so does not fly in the face of the belief that Torah provides protection. Being that you've dedicated much time to resolving difficult statements of Chazal with science, I think you can probably find an answer to reconcile this belief with the reality that we had to close the Yeshivos.

    I heard one approach from a respected Rosh Yeshiva whose name I'll omit, so as not to drag him into the thoroughfare of vitriol that is the comments section of this blog. He quoted the Mishna in Avos (3:5) "Hamekabel alav ol Torah ma'avirin mimenu ol malchus v'ol derech eretz". If the virus is spreading such that it's presenting a clear danger, and the government is forcing the yeshivos to close, then clearly we have not done enough of a kabalas ol Torah. The Rosh Yeshiva acknowledged that we weren't going to fend off the pandemic by keeping our yeshivos open, but did not disregard the protection afforded by limud Torah. If you aren't satisfied with this, as I'm sure you're not, perhaps you can use you're brainpower to think of a better answer.

    And lastly, you're blog is becoming a paparazzi for Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita. When I see his quotes in online ads or email headers I don't usually dwell on them for more than 2 seconds. He's offering a bracha and you can take it or not. I've gotten brachos from him in person but I haven't done a cheshbon hanefesh of exactly what I have or haven't gotten from those brachos. He's the gadol hador and that's that. I don't know a single human being who pays more attention to his quotes, or pashkivilim in general, than Rabbi Nosson Slifkin. Contrary to the impression some mosdos tzedakah may promote, must of us have our own authoritative figures who we refer to as "Daas Torah". Our lives aren't dictated by Kupat Ha'ir ads.
    All that said I do give them money on occasion, regardless of how I feel about their ads.

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    Replies
    1. "Rabbi Slifkin, please stop your campaign of bizui talmidei chachamim. It pains me to think of the kitrug you're bringing upon yourself. I would understand if you were lambasting people who were involved in the ban on your books, as I believe you were severely mistreated and mischaracterized by many of them, but the animosity in your recent posts is really uncalled for."

      It's not animosity that drives me, it's anxiety. You live in the US. I live in Israel, and I'm terrified about its economic future. I notice that you yourself are the beneficiary of a college education. But you're propping up a community in which people lack that. What are you going to do about the economic future of the charedi community (and in turn, all Israel)?

      Delete
    2. I'd like to explore Brian's strenuous assertion that the Torah protects.

      What,or whom, exactly,does it protect?
      Did the Torah knowledge of the Tannaim prevent the churban?
      Did the Torah knowledge of the Rishonim prevent the Crusades?
      Did the Abarbanel and his chevra prevent the expulsion from Spain?
      Did the Achronim and their Torah prevent the Chmelnitzky massacres? Blood libels? Pogroms? The Holocaust?
      I'm at a complete loss as to how some think Torah study prevented any of that.
      And for some in Lakewood to fantasize that Torah study would somehow protect its students and residents from a highly contagious, frequently lethal virus,(after all, Brian proudly states that "We in Lakewood certainly believe that Torah protects..."), well, I'm just speechless.

      Brian then quotes an unnamed Rosh Yeshiva who cited the Mishna in Avos (3:5): "Hamekabel alav ol Torah ma'avirin mimenu ol malchus v'ol derech eretz".

      But where does that Mishna mention protection against a killer virus? Nowhere. The yokes of the kingdom and earning a living, maybe. But it's simply not that helpful against a novel form of influenza.

      Prayer, maybe. That worked for King David. Us? Unclear.

      Brian continues: "If the virus is spreading such that it's presenting a clear danger, and the government is forcing the yeshivos to close, then clearly we have not done enough of a kabalas ol Torah."

      Don't be so tough on yourself. You guys, and kollel guys throughout the US, have accepted the ol Torah to the greatest degree possible. Don't blame yourselves or any perceived deficiencies on your part for the ferocity of this bug. Gd wanted this unleashed on the world, for reasons known only to Him, and it's the height of presumptuousness to think your Torah study could have somehow held it at bay. The world Gd made just doesnt work like that.

      "The Rosh Yeshiva acknowledged that we weren't going to fend off the pandemic by keeping our yeshivos open, but did not disregard the protection afforded by limud Torah."

      Here I'm confused. Why exactly did he not think Torah study would "fend off the pandemic"? Didn't Rabbi Kanievsky explicitly say it would do precisely that a month ago? Doesn't your Rosh Yeshiva hold Rav Chaim as the Gadol Hador, as you contend he is? Why would he go against Rabbi Kanievsky's prescription for success against the disease? And what did he mean that limud haTorah, at some level, provides protection? For whom? In what scenario? Against a virus?

      Torah study provides great cosmic value to its students in the form of olam haboh. And yes, we learn that the whole world was worth creating just for those students. But as a barrier to a rampaging virus like this? Not so much.

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    3. @brian

      RCK is not the godol hador by almost any definition of godol. That belief, which unfortunately is spread far wider than the charedi world, is a root part of the problem and exactly what needs to change.

      Whether RNS' blog will help bring about that change or not is a seperate question.

      Delete
    4. Did BMG (or anyone else in the United states) really wait until mid March to stop regular Minyanim? By that time there were over 3000 cases in the US, and it was clear from other countries that the situation was going to get much worse day-by-day.

      Anyone who was aware of what was going on should have been staying home or at least avoiding crowds weeks earlier. The fact the the president in the US was slow to realize what was going on cost thousands of lives, the fact that the Roshei Yeshiva in Lakewood didn't realize this on their own and needed to wait for a government directive pretty much proves that Daas Torah doesn't provide any additional insight into fields outside of Torah, even with matters of life and death the Roshei Yeshiva seem to be the last people to realize what was going on, when they should have been the first.

      Delete
    5. Let's call a spade a spade. The BMG crowd pays lip service to the idea that RCK is the gadol hador whose words should be treasured and heeded. They don't really believe it for a variety of reasons, some of which have been highlighted on this blog. I don't fault them, but they also shouldn't fault Slifkin for giving these reasons. It's perfectly fair to analyze the words and actions of RCK in accordance with the *stated* view that he is the absolute gadol hador, in line with the Daas Torah narrative that as such, his word is absolute law.

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    6. Most of the Jewish community in America did not stop minyanim until a few days before BMG did. Four Jewish schools in the Bronx and Westchester County -- two in my own neighborhood -- had closed March 3 and put the entire faculty and staff in quarantine. That is the earliest actual shutdown action I have been able to find in the US. Possibly as a result, we have not had as many deaths as many other communities. Social distancing works!

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    7. I know lots of charedim in the US. Most of them work full time -- men and women. Many have college degrees. It is typical that they learn Torah for a few years before attending college and they tend not to live in dorms; as someone who used to teach immature undergraduates who were mostly interested in partying and drinking this is probably a good thing. The overwhelming majority of charedim in the New York area observed the shutdown orders once they were issued. Unfortunately a few rebels created a chilul HaShem by not doing so but there are now a lot more Christians who have decided that they are exempt from the Rules. There are a lot of issues with the charedi communities in the US but they are different from those in Israel.

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    8. Michael Sedley: do not overstate the case. As far as I remember, NOBODY was closing anything until after Purim, which was mid-March. (There were a few people hesitant about getting together for Purim, and they were told [not by chareidi leadership] to go ahead.) The Rabbinical Council of Bergen County (northern NJ) was one of the most proactive groups, and even they only started the closures the week after Purim. Other institutions outside of the NY-NJ area informally followed suit that same week, and then formal closures followed afterward during the next week (March 17 and 18 for many places).

      There were some self-closures immediately after Purim for those who were connected to the AIPAC conference, as 3 ppl who had attended became sick, but the plan at that time was for just a few days.

      I'm not weighing in on Da'as Torah at this time, except to say that at that point, most ppl except the doomsdayers were hoping/expecting to stay open. The American Torah world was not different (not granted special insight, either, as you pointed out, but not any worse).

      Delete
    9. @Shmuel

      The fact that torah protects in the face of danger is brought down throughout both Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi, and many Midrashim. It is paskened in halacha; talmidei chachamim do not need to participate in city defense because they do not need it, their torah protects them (YD 243:2). If you are a halacha practicing Jew, there shouldn't be any further discussion on this.
      You will certainly find times in history were calamities did befall talmidei chachamim, there can be many ways to explain it, A. It could have been worse had the torah not been there to protect B. Hashem will sometimes take a korban from the best, in order that the klal will have the zchus (R' Chanina ben Dosa כל העולם ניזן בשביל חנינא בני) C. Hashem is more medakdek on the tzadikim than he is with the rest of the klal.

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    10. @Rabbi Slifkin
      Truthfully I don't have much a material contribution to the Israeli economy other than the Israeli products I buy and the few dollars I give to Israeli mishulachim who come here to collect money. The situation in the US amongst the yeshivish community is very different than that of the Charedi community of E"Y and while I'm not going to expound on this here I'll say people generally take more achrayus for their own parnasa, including those in kollel. One thing I'll say about E"Y is that it's the only place where you'll find any semblance of the mesirus nefesh for Torah that there was in Europe. The breadth and more importantly the depth of learning and the hasmada that existed before WWII took a serious dip in the post-war era and part of that is due to the upgraded standards of gashmius we have now. This is obviously a "Charedi" point of view, but it's the truth. Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak may be some of the last places that are conducive to the kinyan haTorah that existed in previous generations. Rav Shteinman zt"l was a prime example.

      @Shmuel
      Just because you mentioned Dovid Hamelech, it was indeed limud Torah that protected him. The gemara in Shabbos 30a-b details how the malach hamaves couldn't take his neshama until he stopped learning Torah for a moment as he stepped on a stair that gave way. If you'd like to dismiss this as non-rationalist then go ahead. Rashi there states befeirush that Torah protects from death and quotes the Gemara in Sotah 21a which says "Torah magina leolam".

      I can't take the time to respond to every line but one thing you're not understanding is that it's the study of Torah that protects, not knowledge. The aforementioned gemara in Shabbos says "kol yoma dishabsa hava yasiv vegaris". He would sit and enunciate, not sit and know. This is not to diminish the importance of knowing Torah.
      I don't know where you got the notion that "You guys, and kollel guys throughout the US, have accepted the ol Torah to the greatest degree possible." Limud Torah ALWAYS needs chizuk (Brachos 32b) and everyone knows how they can improve.

      Also, I was not blaming the pandemic on the lacking in our kabalas ol Torah. The point is limud Torah provides protection. Hashem brought this pandemic on us for whatever reason, and has made it a sakana for us to gather together, but that doesn't change our beliefs. I heard from a talmid of Torah vada'as that when Jews would be attacked on the streets of Brooklyn, R' Yaakov Kamenetzky zt'l said that this shouldn't be happening because limud Torah provides protection. This is not something that I or anyone else has suddenly made up.

      Lastly, I don't think the American Roshei Yeshivos consulted R' Chaim Kanievsky shlita on what to do, or read his statements that are listed on his blog. If one were to call him and ask for his eitza, he'd be obligated to follow it. But we have competent Rabbis in the US and their guidance is followed in the communities over which they preside. I'm serious when I say this there is more discussion of Rav Chaim's statements on this blog than in the whole Lakewood. And if you're looking for specifics about exactly what protection Torah provides, see your local mekubal. We are not Nevi'im or bnei Nevi'im and I don't know a single Rabbi who will graph a function of any spiritual variable as it pertains to outcomes in this world. Once again I'll reiterate: Our lives are not dictated by kupat Ha'ir ads. Neither should yours be.

      Delete
    11. On Brian's recent point of how the mesirus nefesh of Bnai Brak mimics that of Europe, I would request that someone who knows history better step forward and tell us numbers. Sure, yeshiva bochurim were moser nefesh to go and learn in various towns, and there were "essen tag" and other strategies to support them from the local (and larger) communities. BUT was the scale as big as it is currently in Israel? Were there communities in which EVERY MEMBER of EVERY FAMILY simply assumed that they were going to learn for years, or was it the best and brightest of the town, possibly every son only in rabbinical families, who would pack up and go to yeshiva? The sheer scale and proportion of the yeshiva world is both awe-inspiring and terrifying.

      BTW, tongue-in-cheek, what mesiras nefesh? Sticking with the community and going to yeshiva is the assumed and therefore EASY way. Getting a job requires a ton more personal sacrifice!!

      Separate issue: On the why R' Chaim is so prevalent here - again, Israel vs the US. RNS is in Israel, where RCK is declared (at least for this) to be the Gadol HaDor. If R' Elyashiv was still alive, he'd be included also in this somehow.

      Delete
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  8. "...thoroughfare of vitriol..." I appreciate good writing when I see it!

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  9. Natan, in the past you have mentioned your great respect for Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.
    This blog, I believe has become the antithesis of everything that Rabbi Sacks stands for.
    Rabbi Sacks stands for; unity, dignity, peace, intellectual honesty and most importantly staying above the fray and not getting entangled in dirty 'Jewish politics'.
    Just can't seem to understand how you admire and speak the Praises of someone so diametrically at odds to your blog.

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    Replies
    1. Why don't you ask him what he thinks of this blog.

      Delete
    2. He thinks your blog is trash. What he says on the other hand; "it's a lovely and informative blog"
      Seems like a raw chord within you was tickled at the suggestion that Rabbi Sacks breeds unity and you Natan, breed disunity.
      Rabbi Sacks constantly speaks of tolerance, this blog is anything but tolerant. Shame you haven't read any of his books, and if you have, it's an even bigger shame that you have taken nothing of what he teaches to heart.

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    3. I love and admire rabbi sacks beyond almost all others. But sometimes I think he should speak out more on public issues where an educated intelligent voice is needed to balance the loud fundamentalist voices.
      He does it in his books, and I get that it's maybe now the job of the next chief rabbi but still...
      I can't imagine he would have a problem with what gets written here.

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    4. Rabbi Sacks wrote a whole book against fundamentalists and the way in which they pervert religion and harm the world. I'm sure he'd agree 100% with this blog.

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    5. How in the world do you know what R' Sacks "thinks," if he says the opposite? I didn't know R' Sacks himself was commenting on this blog!

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    6. I've written to Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks on email. Jon Sacks is a friend of mine. He is very smart. I think he would enjoy this blog. Whether he agrees with everything that Rabbi Slifkin writes is insignificant. What is significant is that Rabbi Slifkin writes thought-provoking articles that make us think. Who can ask for anything more!

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    7. LOL.

      The Torah is against religious violence it says right here in, in, in, hey did I ever tell you that anecdote about the time I was in a plane with Gordon Brown. So he asked me 'Rabbi, how did you become so wise?'. I was my usual modest self, but I couldn't help but answer him with a quote from Kierkegaard, who was a philosopher you know, anyway, before I get back to the point I have to check with the guy in Stamford Hill who censors my books. I was on the Moral Maze you know, many times. You can applaud now.

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    8. "What he says on the other hand; "it's a lovely and informative blog""

      So in other words he thinks it's great, and you wish he thought it was trash so that you could cite him as an argument from authority, but he doesn't, so you can't. Got it.

      Delete
  10. Thank you for the article. The author of the letter is an old yeshiva friend of mine and I remember having the exact same reaction as you did when I got it. I feel terrible for the guy (and I gave him some money at the time), but the tragic thing about the letter is that nothing really went wrong for him. It's not like he c'v got sick or even lost a job. The desperate situation he was in was merely a natural consequence of everything going RIGHT. That's the tragedy of the system. The system is built to fail even when everything goes right(!)

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  11. That's a valuable insight. Even when things go right they're actually unsustainable and debt-inducing. The kollel life is not exactly the Dave Ramaey approach.

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  12. Well, a natural selection is taking place in the chareidi society. The ones adapted to the lifestyle manage to get the wearwithall (and I'm not going to elaborate on how) and thrive in that system. The simpler ones work. For example, a bochur whom I know, is officially learning, but actually works in a hardware store. He comes every year to the US to 'visit' his family and works in a matzah bakery for 4 months. He is 25, lives at home both in Israel and the US and has managed to earn quite a lot of money etc. Once married, it's easy to see him operating his own business. The ones who have the problem are the sincere and naive people who are not cynical or smart to understand the charedi double talk and what it takes to be in 'learning' for generations. I have compassion for them.

    Chareidim maybe a disaster for the society as a whole, but they do manage. I belonged to the last category and when my finances ran out, I went to work at the age of 25. I have no regrets: had I worried about finances, I wouldn't have gotten married at 19 or learned in kollel for 4 years. What I resent is the deception and hypocrisy of the official charedi ideology, not the hardships of learning at the expense of a career or a college education.

    The blog has shortcomings, but as an antidode to the charedi propoganda it's is very good.

    Yakov.

    ReplyDelete
  13. ברוב בושה וכלימה I approach you all my dear friends once again, to ask for your help to assist us in getting through and completing this מצוה של הכנסת חתן וכלה.

    Buying an apartment is not part of any מצוה.


    The biggest help would be to ask you all to daven for Hashem to have רחמי שמים to send us the funds needed to fulfill our financial obligation.

    Taking on such an obligation is sheer idiocy. Better to concentrate more when you say אתה חונן לאדם דעת.

    If you could reach out to others and ask them to direct some of their מעות מעשר in our direction that would enable us to expand our close knit circle and be מזכה them with this מצוה as well. Finally, if it weren’t too much of a חוצפה ועזות if anyone has some extra מעשר כספים that can be directed to help us meet our financial obligation for this couple, we would be forever grateful to you for that.

    Helping you would be teaching evil to your child and her future husband. סור מרע ועשה טוב.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Rabbi Slifkin wrote:
    "As we have seen, the charedi community unfortunately was initially slack in taking heed of warnings about coronavirus. Rav Chaim Kanievsky and others made tragically mistaken claims of "Torah will protect us." But once reality hit their communities, and hundreds of fine frum Jews in Israel, the UK and the US started to fall very sick and die, they started to take things much more seriously."

    Very clever Rabbi Slifkin! In all your previous posts on the failure of Rav Kanievsky's Daas Torah, your predictions of dire consequences focused squarely on Bnei Brak. And this was obviously because this was where Rav Chaim Kanievsky's order to keep kollels and yeshivos open were taken with utmost seriousness. You could never credibly claim that Chareidim in Chu"l were following RCK, and you didn't.
    But it seems your eagerly anticipated large-scale deaths in Bnei Brak never materialized...
    So in order to save face, you now decide to co-opt the U.K. and U.S. chareidim into the picture just so you could fabricate those dire consequences that you were so keen in getting out of RCK's pronouncements. (The rest of the post is all about the ISRAELI shidduch market--it has nothing to do with Chareidi communities in Chu"l either.)
    Very clever indeed!

    Yoni2--are you paying attention? Remember your comment here?
    http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2020/04/who-caused-death-by-daas-torah.html?showComment=1586281567631#c4675319194904207132

    Rabbi Slifkin will never concede he was dead wrong about the many deaths in Israel directly resulting from RCK's "Daas Torah". But there is egg all over his face nonetheless.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But it seems your eagerly anticipated large-scale deaths in Bnei Brak never materialized...

      Actually, you're a bigot, so you projected eagerness at others' death that was never implied by anything Rabbi Slifkin has ever written.

      Delete
    2. DK:
      1) Does or does not Bnei Brak have the highest rate of infection for any city in Israel?
      2) Was the delay in closing the Yeshivos a mistake?
      3) In epidemiological terms alone- why (and how) should Yeshivos be opened up now?
      4) Is there a difference between Health Ministry guidelines and precautions an individual should on himself personally?
      5) What does Halacha say about someone who delays taking life saving action by asking a posek? What does Halacha say about the posek?
      6) What prevents people from learning Torah at home?

      Delete
    3. @ Ephraim:
      1) As I've said many times, infection rates are utterly irrelevant. 80% of those infected have zero to mild symptoms. In hindsight, it may yet prove beneficial to get infected early and become immune early instead of living in fear for months and months.
      Lockdown is a short-term, mitigating strategy to avoid potential overwhelming of the medical system. It can't go on indefinitely. At some point or another, everybody going outside interacting with other human beings will be infected. It's a matter of time and timing.

      2) Too early to tell. Sweden didn't close their schools at all (they used the logic I stated above) and simply told the most at-risk population to stay in isolation. Their death rates are not yet as bad as some other European countries who severely locked down.
      We'll need more time and more data to really know for sure.

      3) for reasons stated above in 1) But then there should be emphasis on isolating elderly and vulnerable populations until effective treatment is developed. It may already have been developed (and this may be why Israel has had so few deaths), but they haven't been publicized.

      4) Not sure. But people should realize that this is not an exact science. There can be different valid strategies for the same challenge--different countries are trying different things and everyone is learning on the job. I don't know why Israel's health ministry should be regarded as having a monopoly on the most effective strategy.

      5) You've told us that already Ephraim, so I won't bother quoting you. But I will emphasize again that THE proper life-saving action in this case is far from clear-cut. You are comparing apples to oranges.

      6) Maybe being in a crowded, bustling household with tons of distractions and no-one to discuss your ideas with might have something to do with it? Which is kind of why we usually leave our homes and go to a beis midrash with talmidei chachomim on hand if we want to have a real seder of uninterrupted learning.
      Kind of a no-brainer there if you've ever had a serious seder limud.

      That was fun. Any more questions?

      Delete
    4. DK:
      6) "no-brainer". Isn't that a nasty thing to write? But you avoided the question. I asked whether one can't learn at home. Not whether it's ideal. I both have to learn, daven, work & exercise from home. It's not ideal, but it's possible.
      5) "is far from clear-cut". Wrong. Current polices are implemented the world over- based on years of research into 100+ years of epidemics. Of course, there are uncertainties. But what is certain and "clear-cut" is that we must follow the best science we have now, even if it uncertain.
      "You are comparing apples to oranges."
      What are the apples & what are the oranges? When you're dealing with life or death, you act first to save lives and then you ask a rabbi.

      4) "But people should realize that this is not an exact science." Irrelevant. Much of science is inexact. That doesn't we can't come up with practical policies despite uncertainty.
      3)"It may..." In other words, you're speculating.
      2) Sweden's "death rates are not yet as bad as SOME other European countries who severely locked down."
      Sweden's death rate is 12%/infected. It ranks 8th worst for deaths/population in Europe. So on that level, it has a bad record. By the way, why did you use the term "SOME"?
      1) "As I've said many times, infection rates are utterly irrelevant." They are relevant. Because infected people infect other people.
      "In hindsight.." What is hindsight? Decades of study of 100+ years of epidemics- conclusions of which resulted in current policy? That's not hindsight? What you mean by "hindsight" is your contrarian speculation.
      "everybody.. will be infected. " Speculation.

      Delete
    5. Ephraim:
      I see from your responses that most of your questions were not sincere but rhetorical.
      You seem claim the right path of action is clear-cut and pikuach nefesh absolutely necessitates total lock-down of everyone (meaning every age and every state of health) until no-one remains infected and the virus is wiped off the map. (I wonder if you maintain that all car travel is assur because of pikuach nefesh and you shouldn't even have to ask a posek to pasken. IT'S SO CLEAR CUT--DRIVING ENDANGERS LIVES! NOT DRIVING SAVES LIVES! )
      You don't seem to acknowledge the validity of a contrary opinion.
      The reality is that no country will follow the halacha of pikuach nefesh to enforce a total lock-down till infections fall to zero or a vaccine is developed and mass-produced. It won't happen.
      Sooner or later we will have another wave and then we will have to decide whether to lock down again or simply live with virus and try to protect the most vulnerable as best we can.
      This is not ebola. That's why you are comparing apples and oranges.
      Good day.

      Delete
    6. "I see from your responses that most of your questions were not sincere but rhetorical."
      Speculation.
      "You seem.."
      Seem. Speculation.
      "You don't seem.."
      Speculation.
      "I wonder if you maintain that all car travel is assur because of pikuach nefesh"
      Driving is not pikuach nefesh. A constant activity part of normal life with a small amount of risk is not considered pikuach nefesh. It's been discussed by the poskim. However, there are times when it would be forbidden to drive.
      "You don't seem to acknowledge the validity of a contrary opinion."
      Again with the "seem". We follow the majority not some contrarian outsider. In any case, you citing the outlying opinions is merely after-the-fact. It's not like the decision to keep Yeshivos open was made after careful review of all opinions, mainstream majority & outlying contrarian. It was made without knowledge of the מצב.
      "...till infections fall to zero or a vaccine is developed and mass-produced"
      Correct. Infections have to fall to a manageable linear rate where the chance for an individual to be infect is low. We're on the way there. We weren't there two weeks ago, nor six weeks ago.
      "Sooner or later we will have another wave"
      Not true. If current restrictions are sufficient and there is compliance there won't be another wave. Infections may however continue to occur at a manageable linear rate.
      "This is not ebola. That's why you are comparing apples and oranges."
      Wrong. You can compare and contrast to ebola. Each pathogen has it's death rate, incubation period, infectiousness etc. Even though the parameters are different, we can learn from other pathogens and apply it to new diseases. COVID-19 is not sui generis.

      Delete
    7. "A constant activity part of normal life with a small amount of risk is not considered pikuach nefesh."

      Precisely my point. For everybody under 45 with no underlying health issues, viruses like this (and the flu) are a part of normal life with a small amount of risk. For them, it is not pikuach nefesh in the slightest. Those who are at greater risk need to take appropriate precautions to keep themselves safe. There is no chiyuv for total lock-down of everybody according to halachos of pikuach nefesh.

      " It was made without knowledge of the מצב."

      Speculation.

      "If current restrictions are sufficient and there is compliance there won't be another wave."

      Speculation.

      "Even though the parameters are different, we can learn from other pathogens and apply it to new diseases. COVID-19 is not sui generis."

      Speculation.

      See? I too can play this silly game of yours.

      Delete
  15. The problem with all of this is that the conversation is juvenile and counter-productive. Neither side (rational vs mystical) will have an effect on the other. Rational has no traditionalist basis to even exist, claiming that there is a line through a variety of no-name individuals back somehow to the Rambam (aren't we all just perfectly rational) and back to Torah Misinai (even though Shaas isn't anywhere rational at all in any forum where it is taught). The other side is counter-rational in its entirety, not caring about science, defining their 'gedolim' by whatever non-criteria they choose to and putting them on a pedestal (almost like some political parties and their candidates), they have no rational understanding of economics or public policy, and are basically unsustainable but don't yet realize it...

    It's fascinating. There's no real basis for conversation even.

    So why bother? To win over Charedim who are about to go OTD but get 'caught' by the net of Rational Judaism before they go full drugs-sex-rock&roll?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rational has no traditionalist basis to even exist

      When you start off with a falsehood, it's unlikely the rest of your rant will be of value.

      Delete
    2. Wait - being a rationalist brings drugs-sex-rock&roll? I must be missing out somewhere...

      Delete
  16. Rabbi Slifkin, have you heard about the new big split in the chareidi leadership? the houses of RCK and RGE are having some serious tension over how to get the mosdos up and running. RGE told the yated not to publish a letter that RCK put out! Yonki Kanievsky is very involved as usual. This situation really may be the beginning of the end of the mainstream chareidi leadership power structure and the dawn of a new era!
    Josh Feld

    ReplyDelete

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