Tuesday, January 5, 2021

So, what IS the Gedolims' Justification?

After I wrote about the collector at my door who freely agreed that he was going against Chazal and the Rishonim and Jewish tradition, someone posted the following question:

Rabbi Slifkin: a la your Karate Mussar article, could you present the perspective of the *gedolim* on the kollel issue? You've written about the self-justifications of the chareidi world when it comes to the real reasons why they don't go to the army, etc. but I wonder what is the reasoning of the gedolim of our generation, not the hamon am. That is, not only Rav Chaim (who didn't just arrive on the scene as a nonagenarian of course), but Rav Shteinman z"l, Rav Elyashiv z"l, etc. After all, as your new friend pointed out, they also know the Chazal and rishonim. I found that to be a thought-provoking point. I'm not suggesting that we submit to their authority. I'm asking what are they thinking.

An excellent question! Indeed, as I have stressed many times, one should fully understand a position before disputing it. So, here is the explanation.

The first thing to bear in mind is that it's not as though the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah sat together and looked at the sources and considered the situation and worked out a developed position, resulting in a communal policy. Rather, the mass kollel phenomenon is something that evolved over time, based on several different factors. So we should not be surprised if it indeed cannot be reconciled with classical Torah positions.

As an analogy, consider the case of the Gedolim declaring it heretical to challenge Chazal's statements about the natural world. Now, as can be seen from the Talmud's discussion in Pesachim about the sun's path at night, all the Geonim and Rishonim, bar none, were of the view that Chazal were indeed saying that the sun goes behind the sky at night, and most of them are of the view that Chazal were mistaken about this. So how does such a view go from being universal to heretical? Because it's not as though the Gedolim sat and investigated this topic. Rather, their position evolved over time from a number of different influences - sixteenth-century innovations in metaphysical interpretations of the Talmud, the reaction to the haskalah, etc. By the time all this coalesced into a blanket position that Chazal's statement about the world are infallible, there hadn't even been an attempt to reconcile this with the views of all the Geonim and Rishonim on the passage in Pesachim. Which is why the Gedolim refuse to even discuss it - because they have no way to do so.

The same is true with the contemporary mass kollel movement and the rejection of the Talmudic/ Rishonic ideal of being self-supportive. There was all kinds of influences which caused this to gradually develop. These include:

  • The innovative transformation of the mitzvah of Torah study by R. Chaim of Volozhin, in which Torah lishmah, newly defined as meaning study for its own sake, became an ideal, with enormous metaphysical power;

  • The destruction of European Jewry, which caused rabbinic leaders to declare "Es la'asos l'Hashem, heferu Torasecha" and overturn previous norms in order to make up for the Torah losses of Europe (and fictitious views of pre-war Europe led people to believe that there was much more Torah study back then than actually existed);
  • The immigration to Israel and blending with the Old Yishuv, in which there was a tiny number of Jews who dedicated themselves to studying Torah in the Holy Land while being supported by voluntary donations from abroad;

  • The emergence of the welfare state and of great wealth among Orthodox Jewry, via which mass kollel became practically viable;

  • The threats of the haskalah and modern society resulting in hostility to secular education and to stepping outside the safety of the Beis HaMidrash;

  • The IDF compulsory draft, for which Toraso u'mnaso is the only legal exemption;

  • The primacy of Torah in Judaism resulting in a belief that learning Torah is an idealistic/ superior way to live.

All these factors (and probably others that I've forgotten) converged to cause the evolution of the current charedi system of mass kollel and children not being educated or raised to work for a living. When people raise objections from sources in Chazal or the Rishonim or tradition, all that happens is that there is an ad hoc attempt to explain these away.

Understanding the various factors involved is, of course, necessary for understanding how to counter this tremendously harmful development, which threatens to destroy Israel's economy, followed by the military, followed by the country. But understanding the causes doesn't mean that the solutions can be easily figured out. Changing the mindset of an entire generation is an immense challenge.

Dropping the draft would help and is the smart thing to do, but it is difficult to implement because it is grossly unfair and currently illegal. Teaching the correct traditional views is something that I'm attempting to do, but runs into problems because people just say that "the Gedolim say otherwise."

Twenty-five years ago, the late Dr. Yehuda Levi (of Torah Study fame) told me that he asked one of the Gedolim (I forget who) that surely now that numbers had recovered since the Holocaust, it was time to cancel the "Eis La'asos" and revert to the traditional norm of people working for a living. The Gadol replied that this indeed may be the case, but he lacks the authority to do so, since he is not as great as the Gedolim who instituted the change. Thus, the extreme approach to Yeridas HaDoros in charedi society means that a temporary emergency measure can never be undone.

It's a big, big problem, that is getting bigger every year; recent changes in parts of charedi society are numerically insignificant compared to the rest. There's no easy or quick solution. We have to try a number of different strategies. This is one of the biggest crises facing the Jewish People, and we all need to figure out what we can do to address it. 

 

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81 comments:

  1. "Which is why the Gedolim refuse to even discuss it - because they have no way to do so."
    This is just flat-out wrong. Both the Gedolim and lesser rabbis clearly can and do discuss it. And they rely on the sources that you know very well! You think because these opinions are a minority, the halacha cannot be like them. But as anybody who has ever learnt halacha knows, sometimes the halacha follows the minority, even for leniencies.

    I would agree that some of the factors you mention could have contributed to the widespread usage of this "leniency".

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    1. uhu sure. Thats why Meiselman omitted every source hostile to his thesis. TCS is proof of what slifkin is talking about.

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    2. @BM what on earth are you talking about? What does TCS have to do with this? And that's RABBI Meiselman to you!

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    3. You said that "Both the Gedolim and lesser rabbis clearly can and do discuss it."

      TCS dances around the topic and the relevant sources like a ballerina. If Meiselman was willing to seriously discuss it contra Slifkin, he'd out put it all on the table...

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    4. Sorry BM, I understood that passage of Rabbi Slifkin to be referring to mass kollel also, not just the sun's path at night. Like he says "The same is true with the contemporary mass kollel movement and the rejection of the Talmudic/ Rishonic ideal of being self-supportive." That is what I was referring to.

      But also with regard to Chazal's science being infallible, of course Rabbi Meiselman in TCS brings many, many sources! What more do you want? That he should answer to your full satisfaction every single question on that shitah?! If rabbis could answer every single question about everything, Moshiach would have come already!

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    5. TCS does not remotely respond to the point that I mentioned - viz., that the topic in Pesachim shows that it was perfectly acceptable to believe that Chazal had elementary misunderstandings of the natural world. He attempts to obfuscate the topic with a lot of irrelevant waffle. See http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2013/10/rabbi-meiselman-tries-to-hide-from-sun.html

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    6. RNS, TCS brings many sources that Chazal were infallible in matters of science, you agree? The "point" that you mentioned is just a question on that shitah. I also have questions on many different sugyot. I don't view those questions as a complete rejection of those sugyot!

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    7. The dispute is not about whether there was anyone in (recent) Jewish history who held that Chazal were infallible in science. Of course there was; I quoted them in my own book. The issue is whether there were *also* those who held that Chazal were fallible. The passage concerning the sun is even stronger, because it shows that *every* Rishon held that Chazal believed that the sun goes behind the sky at night, and most Rishonim concede that this was a mistaken belief.

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    8. Rabbi Meiselman is claiming that it is heretical to assert Chazal were mistaken, and brings many sources for this. So you have questions from many Rishonim. But he still has his sources, he just didn't answer your questions. When I learnt ta'aruvos I also had questions from many Rishonim on the SA, Shach, Taz, etc. Nothing wrong with questions. But for some reason you think this is a dramatic checkmate.

      BTW he is aware of those Rishonim, and deals with them by admitting that Chazal could be mistaken when they didn't have a mesorah. So he does discuss your overarching question, just not in the way you like.

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    9. I don't have "questions" from many Rishonim. I have clear explicit statements from many Rishonim that Chazal were mistaken about the sun going behind the sky at night. This is even though they learned it from Pesukim, which according to R. Meiselman means that it should be infallible.

      Incidentally, I'm not sure if you realize this, but R. Meiselman's distinction between definitive and non-definitive statements of Chazal is his own unique view and the chareid Gedolim would consider this (and other things he says in TCS) to be completely unacceptable.

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    10. So what? Many if not most Torah questions come from clear, explicit, contradictory statements. And of course Rabbi Meiselman has clear explicit statements that Chazal knew the natural world from the Torah. And he deals with your issue, just not the way you like (I don't agree they learnt shitas chachmei yisrael from pesukim. Which pasuk says that the sun goes on top of the rekiya, like the chachmei yisrael? All I see in BB 25b is that the sun goes south in the day and north in the night, not whether the sun goes on top of the rekiya or under the karka.)

      I agree this is probably Rabbi Meiselman's unique view. I am sure the other chareidi Gedolim would just say we don't pasken like the aforementioned Rishonim.

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    11. >Many if not most Torah questions come from clear, explicit, contradictory statements.

      But there are NO statements in Chazal claiming that they were infallible in their statements about nature!

      >And of course Rabbi Meiselman has clear explicit statements that Chazal knew the natural world from the Torah.

      No he doesn't!

      >All I see in BB 25b is that the sun goes south in the day and north in the night, not whether the sun goes on top of the rekiya or under the karka

      Then you haven't understood the Gemara at all.

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    12. He DOES bring clear explicit statements from Chazal and Rishonim that Chazal knew nature from the Torah. Such as the snakes gestation. And the Tashbetz about geometry, quoting Kuzari. And Rishonim who say we cannot argue with Chazal's statements about nature. Such as the Rashba. And many Achronim who say the same.

      >Then you haven't understood the Gemara at all.
      Actually it is you who doesn't understand the Gemara. Certainly the pasuk is NOT being brought to show the sun goes on top of the rekiya rather than under the karka. If you wrote something about how the pasuk shows this, please provide the link. It's not in "The Sun's Path at Night".

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    13. The sources show that *sometimes* Chazal *mistakenly* believed themselves to be able to extract science from Torah.

      >And Rishonim who say we cannot argue with Chazal's statements about nature. Such as the Rashba.

      Rashba says no such thing.

      >Certainly the pasuk is NOT being brought to show the sun goes on top of the rekiya rather than under the karka.

      Correct, the passuk is being brought to show that the sun goes around the perimeter of the rakia instead of above it. Which is likewise incorrect.

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    14. Chazal explicitly claimed to know about nature from the Torah. Whether you think they were mistaken or not is irrelevant. If Rishonim say they were mistaken, that is relevant. We have the Rashba who says that even if many observe the animal living, we deny it and do not reject Chazal. And then he brings examples. That is pretty explicit. Rabbi Meiselman also brings the Rivash who says we cannot reject Chazal's statements.

      >Correct, the passuk is being brought to show that the sun goes around the perimeter of the rakia instead of above it. Which is likewise incorrect.

      Ok, so which part of that pasuk proves like the chachmei yisrael, that the sun goes on top of the rekiya rather than under the karka? And if the pasuk isn't about that specific point, how is it a proof against Rabbi Meiselman's theory?

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    15. >Chazal explicitly claimed to know about nature from the Torah.

      No. ONE of Chazal claimed that he knew A PARTICULAR THING about nature from the Torah. Plenty of other members of Chazal said that they did NOT know things from the Torah, or that things that others of Chazal claimed to know from the Torah were actually incorrect.

      >We have the Rashba who says that even if many observe the animal living, we deny it and do not reject Chazal.
      Right. Talking about terefos which he says is halacha l'Moshe miSinai. In other cases, he says that CHazal erred.

      >Ok, so which part of that pasuk proves like the chachmei yisrael, that the sun goes on top of the rekiya rather than under the karka?
      Both disputants in that argument are saying that the sun does not go on the other side of the world at night. They are only arguing about whether it goes above the sky or sideways around it.

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    16. What is your point. Rabbi Meiselman agrees that where they did not know things from the Torah, they could be incorrect. That doesn't take away from explicit sources that they did know things from the Torah. Are you arguing they knew only a few things from the Torah whereas Rabbi Meiselman says it was a lot, or most?

      >Right. Talking about terefos which he says is halacha l'Moshe miSinai. In other cases, he says that CHazal erred.

      How do you know he is limiting it to terefos that are halacha l'Moshe? He brings examples that are not terefos and not halacha l'Moshe, such as the case in Yevamos. And where does he say that Chazal erred?

      >Both disputants in that argument are saying that the sun does not go on the other side of the world at night. They are only arguing about whether it goes above the sky or sideways around it.

      Oh, I agree that both disputants are not like the chachmei umos. But I don't think Rav Yehoshua is using the pasuk in a way that is explicitly against the chachmei umos either. Why can't the sun both go around the rekiya and also underneath the karka, and heat up the water that way? I imagine the rekiya and karka like a bowl on top of a disc. So it can go outside a window in the bowl, around and sideways, while also going down beneath the disk. Why are they mutually exclusive?

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    17. Realized my pshat can't work because of the other thing the chachmei haumos were correct about- that the sun is attached to the sphere. So there is no going out of the rekiya at all (as Maharam Alshaker points out). I now agree that your question on Rabbi Meiselman from the combination of that gemara and those Rishonim is a good one.

      Possibly one could answer that Rabbi Meiselman would agree in the case of a dispute, where one of the sides has to be wrong anyways, that we wouldn't call such a thing a definitive mesorah. So perhaps from that gemara we don't see a definitive mesorah, learnt out of pesukim, that the sun exits the rekiya via a window. Because we see that Rebbi Eliezer clearly argues with that interpretation of the pesukim- to him there is no window, just an open side. And Rabbi Eliezer's shita is also not a definitive mesorah, for the same reason. But I would need to do more reading of TCS to see if Rabbi Meiselman could agree to that.

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    18. Ah, I found where you cite the Rashba saying that Chazal made a mistake in geometry. My feeling is that he would agree that Chazal can be wrong in those cases where Chazal themselves said they were wrong. Just like in halacha, we wouldn't argue with Chazal but Chazal can argue amongst themselves. And Rabbi Meiselman would probably say they had no definitive mesorah regarding this particular geometry problem.

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    19. And Rabbi Meiselman would probably say they had no definitive mesorah regarding this particular geometry problem.

      Do you not realize how ridiculous this argument is? What we have is the following:

      If CHaZaL were wrong, they didn't have a Mesorah.
      If CHaZaL were right, they either had a Mesorah or they got lucky.

      That's a very convenient position to hold because you're never wrong. But it's also completely unsupported by any evidence.

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    20. Last night I saw the Maharsha in BB that says that Rabbi Yehoshua holds like the the chachmei haumos! That appears to support my pshat, that they are not mutually exclusive, and the sun goes both beneath and around. But the Maharsha is difficult to understand, because of what Maharam Alshaker points out- according to the chachmei haumos, the sun never exits the rekiya, and there is no window.

      Also, I think that at least according to the chachmei haumos, the rekiya is not like a bowl but like a sphere surrounding a disk. Because otherwise how do the heavenly bodies revolve. RNS, is this correct?

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    21. Avi, it's only ridiculous to people who have never seen the inside of a bais medrash. To us, Chazal's words are a priori true and are not to be dismissed lightly, even if we find them really, really difficult. Only amei haaretz demand evidence that Chazal were correct.

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    22. Avi, it's only ridiculous to people who have never seen the inside of a bais medrash.

      You're not making it better. You make it seem as if people who have seen the inside of a bais medrash are perfect idiots.

      We aren't discussing esoteric philosophical ideas or questions about what David really did before he had sex with Bas Sheva. We are talking about statements regarding the natural world which we can prove through observation to be true or false.

      To give credence to the position that "CHaZaL are never wrong unless they are wrong, in which case it was only the opinion of individuals and not divinely-inspired knowledge" is to give credence to logical lunacy. You can never definitively state that any statement of CHaZaL is via Mesorah unless it's something we've empirically discovered to be true. In which case, who needs Mesorah, when you can just go out and see it for yourself? It makes the entire idea of natural philosophy via Mesoera utterly meaningless.

      The bottom line is that the whole position is a way for Meisalmen to say CHaZaL were wrong without saying they were wrong. It's apologetics, and not even good apologetics.

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    23. Avi, if you had seen the inside of a bais medrash (and I'm not saying you didn't) you would know that they are mostly not discussing esoteric philosophy. They are trying their hardest to understand Chazal. And that's because most Chazals are really difficult to understand. Sometimes what they say doesn't seem to make sense at all. Sometimes it seems to be contradicted by other Chazals or pesukim. And sometimes it seems to be inconsistent observable facts.

      In all of these cases, we approach Chazal with humility and try to understand them, rather than summarily dismissing them on account of the seemingly nonsensical statement, or contradiction, or inconsistency with observable facts. And when we can't understand them, we leave it as a question.

      As for Rabbi Meiselman's theory, I won't say I understand it fully, I won't say I agree with it fully either. I don't know how he would determine what nature facts they knew from Mesorah vs. their own limited observations. I also don't know what he would say about a case of machlokes. But I don't think it's meaningless, he has proved to my satisfaction from numerous sources that Chazal knew at least some nature from the Torah. How much, I can't determine. Clearly they didn't invent calculus.

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    24. @happy, here are some sources on Rashba if youre interested: http://torahandscience.blogspot.com/2006/04/rashba.html?m=1

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    25. i would like to make 2 points:

      1.this entire conversation regarding the gemara in pessachim is ridiculous. no one on this blog has any idea what is meant by the upper and lower waters that the רקיע divides between, hence no one on this blog has any idea what the רקיע is. if so the most we can say is we don't understand what the gemara is referring to, so we can't prove anything one way or the other. if you look at rashi on that gemara it becomes even more clear that we have no idea what's going on since rashi's description doesn't even match up with the ancient greek description of the spheres. (unlike the rishonim, the malbim explains the upper and lower waters in a way that coincides with the modern scientific understanding but it doesn't make the gemara any easier to understand).

      in addition by the time this statement of the gemara was recorded, all educated people in that part of the world knew that the earth was a sphere. heck, eratosthenes had calculated the earth's circumference some 400 years before the time of rabbi yehuda hanasi. likewise the rishonim were well aware that earth is a sphere (the ramban takes this for granted in his perush on bereshit, and none of the later commentaries even comment on this as it was not considered any kind of chidush), so they could not have understood the gemara in the simple minded way that RDNS proposes.

      from the gemara (which was referring to something that we have no knowledge of) we can derive only the following: either rabbi yehuda hanasi was stating that empirical observation gives the appearance that the wise men of the nations were correct (even though they weren't) as some understand it (which leads to some halachic questions, but that's a separate issue), or they are correct only in this case because rabbi yehuda hanasi agrees with them.
      and that leads to my second point.

      2. i think that even RDNS would agree that every word recorded in the gemara is torah. i don't think (at least i hope) that he would study the words of chazal that he believes to be mistaken without first reciting birchat hatorah, nor would he study them in the bathroom. if indeed the opinions of chazal regarding natural phenomena were nothing more than the speculation of the individual who stated them, or derivatives of the surrounding culture, how are they torat emet? why did rav ashi not edit them out of the final redaction of the talmud?

      therefore a more profound understanding of those rishonim (such as rambam in moreh nevuchim) who seem to indicate that chazal were sometimes mistaken about their description of natural phenomena is called for. RDNS approach is too easy and superficial.

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    26. Alas, you are historically uninformed.
      We know exactly what the firmament and the upper and lower waters are; they were described in detail not only by Chazal but in other ancient religions.
      Likewise, it is simply not the case that everyone knew the world to be round. Even as late as the 18th century, the Shvus Yaakov rejected secular science on the grounds that it contradicted with Chazal who hold that the world is flat.
      Your final point is circular reasoning. It's Torah, so it must be true (in some way)! If by "Torah" you mean "divine wisdom" and/or "wisdom from Sinai," then no, I most certainly do not agree that every word in the Gemara is Torah. When Chazal describe spontaneous generation, this is simply a mistake. And the refuos, for example, are simply the beliefs of that period. They were included in the Gemara because the Gemara presented relevant wisdom.

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    27. 1. so please enlighten us, to what currently recognized phenomenon do the upper and lower waters refer? remember the description of רקיע that we are discussing is not one provided by chazal, but rather by god himself in the possuk. unless you are arguing that god also doesn't know about the natural sciences until the advent of modern science.

      2. i have no idea what the Shvus Yaakov is referring to, or even what he did or didn't say. but it is interesting that someone who knows that chazal can be mistaken, is suddenly arguing from authority that if the Shvus Yaakov thought that chazal believed the world to be flat, then it must be so. this despite both the secular historical record that the earth being a sphere was widely known in the times of chazal, and is taken for granted by the rishonim. does the Shvus Yaakov mention the ramban and reject him as well? if not perhaps he didn't actually say what you think he said.

      3. for the sake of clarity, would you study those areas of the gemara that are in your opinion "simply a mistake" without birchat hatora or in the bathroom? if not, what makes them holy? doesn't god know that it's "simply a mistake".

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    28. BM thanks for the link. Looks like it's just a list of places where the Rashba discusses a disagreement amongst Chazal about nature? Including the Rashba in Eruvin I referred to earlier. But for there to be a contradiction to the Teshuvos Harashba, I would need a Rashba that says *we* may argue with Chazal based on our observations.

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    29. 1. "to what currently recognized phenomenon do the upper and lower waters refer?" It doesn't refer to any currently recognized phenomenon, obviously. As you are no doubt aware, there is no such thing. Likewise, the sun does not actually rise, and the heart does not actually understand. Dibra Torah B'Lashon Bnei Adam.

      2. I'm not "arguing from authority" - I am pointing out that as late as the 17th century, great rabbis believed the world to be flat. Kal v'chomer it was not at all universally believed in antiquity that it was round. As I showed in my monograph, there were prominent schools of thought that believed it to be flat.

      3. Good question. I've heard that Rav Shachter says not to say Birchas HaTorah on them. Not sure what you mean by "doesn't God know," He didn't write those parts of the Gemara.

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    30. 1. so if i understand you correctly, you believe that not only are chazal regularly uninformed (and misinforming us in turn), but also the chumash contains statements that are blatantly untrue because god wanted to cater to the ignorant assumptions of the primitives to whom he gave the torah.
      so when the torah states: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים יְהִ֥י רָקִ֖יעַ בְּת֣וֹךְ הַמָּ֑יִם וִיהִ֣י מַבְדִּ֔יל בֵּ֥ין מַ֖יִם לָמָֽיִם:
      וַיַּ֣עַשׂ אֱלֹהִים֘ אֶת־הָֽרָקִיעַ֒ וַיַּבְדֵּ֗ל בֵּ֤ין הַמַּ֨יִם֙ אֲשֶׁר֙ מִתַּ֣חַת לָֽרָקִ֔יעַ וּבֵ֣ין הַמַּ֔יִם אֲשֶׁ֖ר מֵעַ֣ל לָֽרָקִ֑יעַ וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן:
      וַיִּקְרָ֧א אֱלֹהִ֛ים לָֽרָקִ֖יעַ שָׁמָ֑יִם וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם שֵׁנִֽי
      none of that is actually true. it is only an attempt to speak B'Lashon Bnei Adam (since no Bnei Adam actually speak this way, i assume that you mean to cater to their prejudices).

      2. so you found a great rabbi that seems to say something blatantly ridiculous. at a time when ships were regularly traversing the globe, 200 years after colombus successfully sailed to the americas, at a time when absolutely nobody in europe (jew or non jew) was under the mistaken notion that the earth was flat, he claimed that he knew that the earth was flat. what's more likely, that he was really such an incredible outlier, or that you misunderstood what he said? and if he was such an incredible outlier, what can be proven from him?

      not only was it widely known by the time of rabbi yehuda hanasi that the earth was a globe, but many members of chazal travelled in ships on the open sea where they navigated based on the heavenly bodies. they actually measured the angle of the horizon to the star that they were navigating by, so they knew from direct experience that the earth was circular. in addition any child can stand on the high mountains in the north of israel that overlook the sea, and watch a ship disappear over the horizon.

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    31. Anonymous guy, please don't be rude to Rabbi Slifkin, he clearly has done more research on the topic than you or I, as well as having written multiple books. I also vehemently disagree with him, yet it can be done in a polite way.

      With that said, I would ask Rabbi Slifkin the following question. Why is it that you think dibrah Torah k'Lashon bnei adam is an acceptable solution for difficulties in the Written Torah, but not for difficulties in Chazal? Why not say dibrah Chazal k'lashon bnei adam? Is it because

      1. there is no tenable way of saying that, given that Chazal base halachic conclusions on these lashonos such as rekiya and whatnot, therefore they cannot just be k'lashon bnei adam.
      2. We assume Hashem, the writer of the Written Torah, was omniscient, therefore He cannot say anything wrong. Therefore if He wrote something in the Torah that appears to be wrong, we assume it is dibrah Torah k'lashon bnei adam. As opposed to Chazal who were not omniscient, it is better to assume they were just ignorant of the facts.
      3. We have no source for dibrah Chazal k'lashon bnei adam.
      4. some other reason?

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  2. Hi Rabbi Slifkin,
    I would love sources on your list above (the influences which led to the contemporary mass kollel movement and the rejection of the Talmudic/ Rishonic ideal of being self-supportive), if possible.
    Thank you,
    Shimmy Feintuch

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    1. Shimmy Feintuch??? You were my counselor in mogen av 🤣

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  3. I think you are being naive to think there is any solution that will change the view of those who are I thrall to the nonsense of the Gedolim - sometimes one has to call it what it is - short of force. Painful as that might be, the longer it is left the greater the chance of civil war and a destruction from which there will be no recovery.

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  4. I think you are being naive to think there is any solution that will change the view of those who are I thrall to the nonsense of the Gedolim - sometimes one has to call it what it is - short of force. Painful as that might be, the longer it is left the greater the chance of civil war and a destruction from which there will be no recovery.

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  5. How about ENDING ALL SUBSIDIES? They cannot continue to take and not give if the majority (secular plus national-religious) cease to allow it. You can't have a parasite in human society without a willing host.

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    1. You forgot. The chareidim in the Knesset have their hands on the faucet.

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  6. "Dropping the draft would help and is the smart thing to do"

    R' Slifkin, can you please elaborate on this?

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    1. As long as there is a requirement that Haredim serve when they leave the yeshiva, they will remain in their yeshivas to avoid army service. If you drop the draft requirement for Haredim, the yeshivas would all empty out. IIRC, the issue of exempting Yeshiva students from the army is what brought down the government when Yair Lapid had a big block of seats with his Yesh Arid party. The proposal was that full time yeshivas students could learn until age 25 and have those years count as service. After that they were free to go. The Haredi parties understood that if the proposal passed then the Yeshivas would empty out, so they brought down the coalition and we've been stuck in this never ending cycle of elections ever since.

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    2. This summary of Lapid's plan is not completely accurate. Here is a summation from Ynet. The Gedolim objected to what would happen after the five years:

      According to Lapid's plan, during the first five years of the program the haredim will be automatically exempt from IDF service. "(It is with a heavy heart) that we present this proposal, because logic and justice demand the immediate recruitment (of haredim) without compromises," he told the activists gathered at the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv.



      Lapid addresses supporters (Photo: Ofer Amram)
      Lapid addresses supporters (Photo: Ofer Amram)


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      However, Lapid predicted that more than 50% of haredim will prefer to leave the yeshivas and join the work force. This, he said, will save the State NIS 1.5 billion ($400 million), which will be allocated towards raising the salaries of those who serve in the army and towards academic scholarships for soldiers.



      When the five years are up, according to Lapid's plan, every 18 year old will be obligated to enlist in the IDF or join a civil service program. The number of new IDF recruits will be determined according to the military's needs. Combat soldiers and troops belonging to units that support combat outfits will serve three years, while other soldiers will serve two years. Soldiers who serve three years will receive a minimum age salary as of their second year of service and will be eligible for an academic scholarship upon their release from the army.


      According to the plan, those who refuse to enlist will be denied of the right to academic or housing stipends. However, they will still receive Social Security payments.

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  7. There are so many mistakes in this monologue, it is hard to know where to start.
    But these mistakes are already so ingrained that I don't think you are even up to an actual mature discussion of the issues.

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    1. So many mistakes, but you couldn't be bothered to list even one. I'm going to assume that the only mistake here is your attempt to rebut the blog post.

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  8. I would argue that if "Eis La'asos" applies to the Torah, kal v'chomer should it apply to the rulings of Gedolim who were greater than you are. "Go to the judges of that day" and all that.

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  9. I see it as a purely economic issue. A huge haredi economy has developed around the yeshiva/kollel system. That system depends on keeping large numbers of people trapped in the system, and marketing to new recruits is essential to keeping that economy going. Any attempt to lower enrollment will endanger that economic system and will be opposed. The Haredi leadership will oppose any law that gives blanket army exemptions because they fear that the yeshivas/kolells would empty out and that will cause the haredi economy to collapse. Like everywhere else in the world, self-serving economic interests are the main motivator of behavior here.

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    1. Nonsense. A work based economy would bring in far greater wealth.

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  10. Newton's first law - an object at rest will stay at rest, an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted on by a net external force.
    KT

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  11. An additional reason for the Kollel movement is the very reasonable belief that nowadays one cannot become a truly great Torah scholar and make an independent parnosa simultaneously.

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    1. What percentage of people in kolel have ambitions to become "truly great" torah scholars?

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    2. "What percentage of people in kolel have ambitions to become "truly great" torah scholars?" In my experience from when I was in yeshiva, most of them. But I think it is a fantasy. To become a truly great Torah scholar, in addition to sitting and learning, one must be a genius!

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    3. The truly great Torah scholars manage.

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    4. This is a red herring. There is no requirement for everyone to become a truly great Torah scholar.

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    5. But the more people you have in the Kollel system, the more talmidei chachamim you will produce and talmidei chachamim marbeh shalom ba'olam.

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    6. You're joking, right? Difficult to tell online.

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    7. To be honest, no I am not. Klal Yisrael needs talmidei chachamim and no matter what one says about the Kollel system, it does successfully produce many talmidei chachamim.

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    8. Does it? We all say so, but the simple fact is that the non-kollel system (i.e., the non-charedi system) produces a lot of talmidei chachamim, while I remain to be convinced that there's been a huge increase in scholarship coming from the charedi world since, say, 1977. And of course none of the charedi gedolim went through this system themselves.

      And all of that assumes that what the world needs more of is more talmidei chachamim instead of, say, knowledgable baalebatim. Maybe it doesn't.

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    9. As to "marbe shalom," that line has been mentioned as good evidence Chazal had a good sense of humor. It's always a good time for this story: I used to daven with the late R' Avraham Schechter, brother of R' Aharon of Chaim Berlin, a wonderful human being. (Everyone affectionately called him "Santa" because he looked and acted just like one.)

      One Shabbat, at the height of all the Slifkin-banning and reaction, the chazan, wrapping up Musaf, said "Talmidei chachamim marbim shalom ba'olam..." a bit louder than usual, and from the back of the small shul, R' Schechter called out, "Not always!"

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    10. Contradicted by the Michtav meEliyahu regarding a thousand students to produce one "real learner", a euphemism for one Gadol, obviously of charedi caliber.

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  12. Very well put! I was going to make a point about charedi reasons for things they do (and I will below), but your post obviates the need for that- there was no one reason, or perhaps any...

    (Which leads to the problem of what the gadol said to Levi- if you can't even disagree with an actual decision of a previous gadol, then ironically it's even harder to do so when there was *no* decision.)

    I'd add two points to yours:

    1. To welfare I'd add, in the US at least, multiculturalism. In a society that doesn't have much tolerance toward vast deviations, something like kollel never would have been allowed. But if everybody has their own thing, well, this is the Jewish one, goes the defense. Of course, charedim will never *admit* this.

    2. Taking literally statements the Gemara makes about talmidei chachamim and Torah study without at least taking slightly into account the fact that all those statements were made by Torah scholars. That should matter, I think, heretical as some might find it.

    Here's my point about charedi reasons: For virtually everything, one will find three or four levels of reasons. The PR reason for outsiders- which probably doesn't even work, the internal reason that even the charedim realize won't fly outside, the real internal reason that isn't said aloud (which is usually the same for every issue), and the underlying reason, which is almost always the same for every issue.

    For example, for lack of IDF service it goes like this:

    1. "Our learning protects you. We serve by learning." Charedim don't really believe the former, and don't really care enough to believe the latter, and no one outside (well, maybe Shas voters) buys either, but the argument is made.

    2. "Serving in the IDF would be bittul Torah." That *really* wouldn't fly for anyone else.

    3. If we allow this, people will leave and our society would collapse. This is true, and true for almost all issues, but charedim are hesitant to admit even to themselves that their system (and education) is that shaky.

    4. The IDF was created by non-charedim. This is true of almost everything, from Zionism to tekhelet: "Nisht fun unzer" made it, so it's treif.

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    1. Nachum, all good points, in fact, all points which I've made myself over the years (which is why they're good, grin). The problem RNS faces, and all would-be reformers from the outside, is the lack of נאמנות.

      Note this - it's not merely that they're not charedim themselves, which by itself a big obstacle. But more than that, it's that they cheapen their opinions on kollel, which many might privately agree with, with their opinions on other matter, on which they don't. Look at all the posts we've seen here on Covid, just to pick one example. You're talking about something over which tens of millions of GENTILES disagree vehemently on. Yet RNS posts as if his opinion was the only one, and insists also that its a Halachic matter. The same can be said about many other topics. Well, now, well one talks like that, it makes everything he says easily dismissed out of hand, doesn't it? Who's going to listen to a guy on X, when he talks like that on Y?

      If one really wishes to fix the Kollel problem, he has to devote himself entirely to that cause. Anything else will dilute the message.

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    2. DF, I see you're back. Really, you should listen to your own advice. Ever since you insisted that I was an idiot for believing that the rate of chicken growth can increase fourfold in fifty years, while simultaneously demonstrating that you have absolutely zero knowledge of the selective breeding process with chickens, you've completely undermined your credibility. (Which is a pity, because your final paragraph here is a good one.)

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    3. The drive to assume da'as torah for oneself is strong. Just see all the religious peaceniks who would never accept da'as torah under any other circumstance who constantly talk about how R' Soloveitchik or R' Lichtenstein supported their position.

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    4. RNS - you're dissembling. You posted a graphic claiming chickens today are 4 times bigger than they were 50 years ago. When I pointed out the absurdity of it, you concocted a belated defense that it really only meant the growth rate had increased, a claim I showed was also false.

      In any event, my words fell on deaf ears, as I knew they would, because you're back again today wading into politics. Which is fine - you have a right to your opinions - just understand by now you've totally cemented your reputation as a leftist. Not exactly the way we win friends and influence people.

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    5. The graphic said at the top "Average Age of Chicken Breeds at 56 Days Old." Which you did not remotely show was false. And in declaring it to be "absurd" and comparing it to humans or cows, you revealed your own utter ignorance of the topic.

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    6. RDNS,
      you wrote above "The graphic said at the top 'Average Age of Chicken Breeds at 56 Days Old'."
      i presume that is a typo, since the exact age of any creature at 56 days old is precisely 56 days.

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    7. Sorry, that should be "Average SIZE of Chicken Breeds at 56 Days Old."

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  13. Good post of course overall, but I don't think, Rabbi Slifkin, that you answered the question. You did not give the mekoros for the pro-kollel side. You gave the historical-sociological explanation for the development of the situation.

    Of course, I don't think that those sources are unknown to people - all the maamaros that seem to support learning full time, that Torah is "k'negged kulam," Rabbi Nehorai "I will only teach my son Torah," etc. Now, these proofs might be able to be argued (like your discussion about the true meaning of k'negged kulam, how certain statements are only for the Gedolim themselves, etc), but the statements are out there being potent by themselves while the explanations do not have such staying power.

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    1. Well, that was covered in the last of the points that I listed. (It should go without saying that there are not actually any mekoros that masses of people should learn rather than earn a living.)

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    2. There is the Medrash Tanchuma in Beshalach about the tzintzenes haman.

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    3. Ye-e-es, you did cram the whole kit and caboodle of this stuff into one line. I don't think that was what people were expecting.

      And whether there are or are not such mekoros about "masses of people" is not exactly the issue. For most mitzvos, we don't have mekoros that "masses of people" should perform them. (Pirsumei nissa things notwithstanding, Hakhel, and a few others.) The tests say "Wash netilas yadayim." Therefore, we wash netilas yadayim. The texts say "V'hagisa bo yomam valayla," so we (they) sit and learn day and night.

      The mekoros for the kollel side are all of these one-liners, perspectives, comments, and stories seeming to support the ideas of Learning Is Everything. As I said in my original comment, sure, we can poke holes in these sources, and point out that they were for specific individuals, or only mean reward and not behavior, or machshavah leads to maaseh or whatever, but that does not have the PR value of the original statements or stories.

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  14. I've seen statistics that show a big drop in Chareidi participation in the workforce corresponding to increased government funding of yeshivos. I think the biggest change (in both factors) took place during the Begin era, when Chareidi parties joined the government for the first time, and the parties made an increase in yeshiva funding the price of their participation.

    If the government could somehow manage to gradually reduce payments to yeshivos, there would initially be much opposition and hardship in the Chareidi society, but the rate of employment would start to go up. Thus, the solution is economic, not hashkafic or halachic.

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  15. Yissachar/Zevulun analysis please?

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    1. When the theaters were shut by plague and there was no market for plays, Shakespeare found a patron, the Earl of Southampton (who was interestingly almost a decade younger than him). The Earl basically paid Shakespeare a full salary to write poetry, and the result were two long poems which were actually the only thing Shakespeare himself ever published in his life.

      Yissachar-Zevulun means that some person (or persons) with the means pay a deserving individual to learn full-time. (And that's usually so as to cultivate that individual to move to greater things, independently.) That is very, very different from what's being discussed here.

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  16. "The IDF compulsory draft, for which Toraso u'mnaso is the only legal exemption"

    Yes, it is a huge problem that hareidi Jews do not participate in the defense of their country in the military (IDF). (Not sure why this comment wasn't posted earlier).

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    1. If it's a good idea to get rid of the draft, then of course it should be gotten rid of. But the lack of charedi representation should have absolutely zero bearing on the question.

      And let's be honest, apart from a random few libertarian types, any call to end the draft in Israel comes from people trying to mask and erase charedi non-participation.

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  17. The real question to you is, can you quote the other opinion without judgement? What do the proponents of full time Kollel for the many really hold?
    This article is a method of what is known as in Yiddish ברענג אים אריין און ווארפט'ס אים ארויס - bring him in and throw him out. You are setting it up as ridiculous as possible, including your own פירכות as part of the narrative, under a pretense of quoting their opinion.

    For example, you write:
    The innovative transformation of the mitzvah of Torah study by R. Chaim of Volozhin, in which Torah lishmah, newly defined as meaning study for its own sake, became an ideal, with enormous metaphysical power;
    That is your position, not theirs. They believe that the opinion of Reb Chaim of Volozhin is not innovative, it is classical Judaism, merely codified and organized by Reb Chaim Volozhiner.

    Try really understanding their opinion, not in order to disqualify it, just to actually understand it. Admit once and for all that the Rambam's opinion on taking money for learning is the outlier, never having been the normative Halacha anywhere in the world. And so on.

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    1. Well, yes, this is an opinion blog, and R' Slifkin's opinions do have historical validity.

      I don't think *anyone*- and certainly not masses of people- took money, certainly not public money, and certainly not for life, for learning up to and well beyond the Rambam's time.

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    2. If you read carefully, you will see that the title of this piece is 'So what is the Gedolim's Justification?' This piece purports to be their justification, but the writer cannot separate his opinion from theirs.
      Aristotle is supposed to have said 'the ability to entertain an idea without accepting it, is the hallmark of an educated mind'.

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  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  19. Reb Natan

    Not sure I recall ever seeing your views on the ביאור הלכה או"ח סימן רלא
    Surely this has to be relevant in any discussion of kollel

    Regards
    A friend and neighbour

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  20. I think it's far simpler than this

    The reason the Gedolim allow the Kollel myth to continue is because they don't have a viable alternative to offer to the tens of thousands in the system

    The reason so many continue to go through the kollel system is because it's a much easier and (for them) more gratifying lifestyle than working, especially without qualifications or skills

    I genuinely don't believe that anyone within the Charedi establishment has put a huge amount of thought into the status quo

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