Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Does Rambam Support Kollel?


 The following mailing was sent out last week by the Bais HaVaad Halacha Center of Lakewood:

Taking Tzedakah Money To Sit & Learn

Question: We have stated that one should avoid taking tzedakah if he has the option of supporting himself. Today, there are thousands of people learning in Kollel. Many of them are supported by the public’s generosity. Since they technically could get a job and support themselves, is learning full-time a contradiction to the Gemara’s statement that one should avoid taking charity?
 
Answer:   It is true that Chazal say it is preferable to take any job than to live off of tzedakah; however, the Rambam says that anyone who accepts to spend his days learning Torah should be supported by the public.

In olden times, Shevet Levi sat and learned all day and they were taken care of by the rest of the nation. The Rambam says that anyone who so desires can emulate Shevet Levi and accept to learn full-time while the public supports him.

These people are needed to sustain the world through their Torah studies, and, therefore, are an exception to the above-stated rule that one should do any kind of labor in order to avoid accepting charity. All Poskim agree that this is true and maintain that supporting such men is an ideal form of tzedakah.

The Chofetz Chaim speaks about this in many places and says that the best use of tzedakah funds is to support poor Torah scholars who wouldn’t be able to learn otherwise without your help. These funds directly contribute to the dissemination of Torah through the generations and are necessary to sustain the world.  
 
Here is a letter that I sent to them:
 
To Bais HaVaad Halacha Center:

I was astounded to see you claim that “the Rambam says that anyone who accepts to spend his days learning Torah should be supported by the public.” Rambam, in discussing the laws of learning Torah, emphatically states the exact opposite:

“One who makes up his mind to involve himself with Torah and not to work, and to support himself from charity, has profaned God’s Name and brought the Torah into contempt, extinguished the light of religion, brought evil upon himself, and has taken away his life from the World-to-Come...” (Hilchos Talmud Torah 3:10)

I do not understand how you could discuss Rambam's view without quoting his explicit statement that such a lifestyle is utterly, utterly wrong. (This is even though the state of Torah study in his part of the world was generally rather poor, especially compared to today.)

Apparently, in presenting Rambam’s position as being the exact opposite of what he says in Hilchos Talmud Torah, you were misled by Rambam’s statement at the very end of Hilchos Shemittah Ve'Yovel. It follows a halachah where Rambam notes that the tribe of Levi did not receive a share of the Land of Israel to develop, nor serve in the army, but instead their role was to serve God and teach Torah to Israel. Rambam follows this by stating as follows:

"Not only the Tribe of Levi, but each and every individual human being, whose spirit moves him and whose knowledge gives him understanding to set himself apart in order to stand before the Lord, to serve Him, to worship Him, and to know Him, who walks upright as God created him to do, and releases himself from the yoke of the many foolish considerations which trouble people - such an individual is as consecrated as the Holy of Holies, and his portion and inheritance shall be in the Lord forever and ever. The Lord will grant him adequate sustenance in this world, just as He granted to the priests and to the Levites. Thus did David, peace upon him, say, O Lord, the portion of my inheritance and of my cup, You maintain my lot."

Presumably, it is based on this that you claimed that “In olden times, Shevet Levi sat and learned all day and they were taken care of by the rest of the nation. The Rambam says that anyone who so desires can emulate Shevet Levi and accept to learn full-time while the public supports him.”

However, Rambam does not, and could not, mean anything of the sort. Obviously he could not be completely contradicting what he said in the very laws that deal with Talmud Torah. What has happened is that you have not paid attention to two statements of Rambam which make clear that there are two crucial differences.

First of all, insofar as Rambam does equate Torah scholars with the tribe of Levi with regard to material sustenance, he makes the meaning of this clear elsewhere:

"Anyone who makes economic use of the honor of the Torah takes his life from this world... However, the Torah permits scholars to give their money to others to invest in profitable businesses (on their behalf)... and to receive priority in buying and selling merchandise in the marketplace. These are benefits that God granted them, just as He granted the offering to the Kohanim and the tithes to the Levite... for merchants occasionally do such things for each other as a courtesy, even if there is no Torah scholarship to warrant it. A Torah scholar should certainly be treated at least as well as a respectable ignoramus." (Commentary to the Mishnah, Avos 4:7)

In Rambam's view, Torah scholars, like Kohanim and Leviim, receive benefits, though the benefits are of a different nature. They involve the investment of funds, and assistance in business, rather than financial grants. This is similar to the Yissacher-Zevulun relationship, which, according to Chazal, was nothing at all like it is popularized today; rather, it involved Zevulun marketing the produce that Yissacher farmed.

The second crucial difference is that according to Rambam, the tribe of Levi did not “sit and learn all day,” as you write. The Levites' special mission was not learning Torah; it was teaching Torah:

"Why did the tribe of Levi not acquire a share in the Land of Israel and in its spoils together with their brothers? Because this tribe was set apart to serve God and to minister to Him, to teach His straight ways and righteous ordinances to the multitudes, as it is written: “They shall teach Jacob Your ordinances and Israel Your Law” (Deut. 33,10). (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Shemittah VeYovel 13:12)

According to Rambam, someone learning in kollel is simply in no way doing what Levites did. The Levites were not sitting and learning all day; they were primarily teachers.

In conclusion: In Hilchos Shemittah VeYovel, Rambam is not remotely describing someone studying in kollel, being supported by charitable contributions. His view on this remains as he expresses it elsewhere: that such a person "has profaned God’s Name and brought the Torah into contempt." I look forward to your issuing a correction.

(Incidentally, it is true that Rambam was somewhat of an aberration from normative tradition in his views on these matters, but not as much as one might think. He does, reluctantly, permit teaching the Written Torah for money, where such is the norm, and although he opposes receiving money for teaching Oral Torah, he does not do so with the same vehemence that he opposes taking money for studying Torah – see Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:8-10. Other Rishonim often permitted taking money for teaching Torah, though almost never for studying Torah. 
 
The general attitude is perhaps best expressed by the Ramoh in Yoreh Deah, 246:21. He first states the primary view, that it is forbidden and wrong for Torah scholars to receive funding; he then notes a "yesh omrim," an alternate lenient view that it is permissible for rabbis to receive funding, and finally brings an even more lenient view that even students may receive funding. Along with the presentation of this as an extremely lenient “yesh omrim”, Ramoh notes that it is still preferable for Torah students to be self-supportive, if possible. Presumably this is because this was the clear value system of Chazal, and perhaps this is why the phenomenon of mass Kollel was unknown for most of our history. Along the same lines, Chazal were very clear that a person has to give his children the necessary education to be financially independent.)

Sincerely,
Natan Slifkin
 

108 comments:

  1. I wonder if they would support a Gentile learning in Kollel since the Rambam mentions that Kol Baei Olam are included?

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    1. A ger could be included in kol boei olam. Not sure if the Rambam would include a gentile who remains a gentile as להבדל לעמוד לפני ה' לשרתו ולעובדו. One could also ask if the Rambam would include women, like Dr. Bruck.

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    2. Happy,
      No, a ger is a Jew. Kol boei olam means anyone in the world, including gentiles. Of course it includes women as well.

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    3. Could you explain why not?
      What was Iyov doing according to those who maintain he was not Jewish?
      The Rambam writes kol ba'ei olam, which is about as explicit as one could get.

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    4. Yes,that does seem to be the plain meaning of the text.

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    5. Dave, kol boei olam doesn't mean anybody in the world, it means anybody who is born. Anybody who is born is able to accomplish להבדל לעמוד לפני ה' לשרתו ולעובדו. That doesn't mean he is able to accomplish it while remaining a gentile. Just like the Rambam doesn't mean to include ignoramuses, or hedonists. Even though they are also kol boei olam. There are certain requirements to accomplishing להבדל לעמוד לפני ה' לשרתו ולעובדו. Very possibly, accepting the Torah and becoming Jewish is one of them.

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    6. You made that all up. The Rambam says what he means. You don't like it so you twist it all up. He would say (male) Jews if he meant that.

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    7. Dave, I didn't make up anything. He says any boei olam (ie anybody who was born) can accomplish להבדל לעמוד לפני ה' לשרתו ולעובדו. That doesn't mean that there aren't requirements for accomplishing that. It seems very possible, and even makes sense, that one of the requirements is accepting and following the Torah. What's so hard to understand about that? Only if you come to the Rambam with a secularist, "universalist" approach, will you assume the Rambam means to compare non-Jewish philosophers to Shevet Levi.

      And since somebody else brought up R' Chaim Kanievsky's Derech Emunah, I checked and he says Rambam is referring to תלמידו חכמים. Not non-Jewish philosophers. So I didn't make it up, and it's not just me. Are you the same Dave who claimed that R' Dessler never learned MN?

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    8. see here: https://library.yctorah.org/files/2016/07/Kellner-on-Rambam-FINAL.pdf

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    9. From that link, footnote 9 "As much he might want to, Maimonides has no way of excluding from the world to come morally and intellectually perfected Jews who do not observe the commandments".

      What a genius. This is the derech halimud we are dealing with.

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    10. There's a shailah about whether R Dessler learned MN? Is there any evidence he did? (in your view evidence is "it seems very possible and makes sense to say" when you pretzelize a rambam, so you're obviously not really the right address for evidence)

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    11. Dave, the evidence is that he quotes it numerous times in Michtav M'Eliyahu. As for the Rambam, it is you who needs to provide evidence for such a great chiddush, that he means to compare gentile philosophers to Shevet Levi. Sorry, "kol boei olam" doesn't cut it. Maybe he includes two-year old children, since they are also "kol boei olam"? Maybe he includes idolaters, who wish to continue practicing idolatry, since they are also "kol boei olam"?

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    12. Your response about the Rambam is silly and doesn't warrant any more response.

      Where are the numerous places the ME quotes the MN? (And are they passages that are not quoted by the Ramban al hatorah et al? Because obviously anyone who learns Ramban al hatorah, i.e., a basic talmid chacham, will know certain classic MNs without ever opening the sefer.)

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    13. So says somebody with no response. Answer my question. Does the Rambam mean to include idolaters who wish to continue practicing idolatry, since they are also "kol boei olam"? If not, why not?

      Do you concede that the Rambam doesn't mean anybody who wants to serve G-d in whatever manner he wishes? And if so, what makes you think the Rambam would include gentiles who wish to continue as gentiles? Again, R' Chaim Kanievsky agrees with me. Who agrees with you? Some academic am-ha'aretz?

      As for Rav Dessler, you can look at the mafteach, it lists references by work.

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    14. Glanced at the mafteach - very shvache rayah. I looked at a bunch of the sources and they're either very famous MNs (e.g., eitz hadaas, or only man is under hasgachah peratis - he even references that it's famous!) or it's a throwaway broad reference (e.g., the Rambam also says we understand God through negative attributes, also very famous btw). When it comes to classic yeshivishe sources, R' Dessler quotes it, examines it, and finds sources people don't always know, that's not the case with his quotes of the MN at all.
      It's strange also that he quotes in support of yeshivos producing gedolim at the cost of losing some kids from the Rambam: ימותו אלף סכלים ויהנה ממנו חכם אחד. The Rambam does not say that, he says in the intro to MN בשיאות לאחד מעולה ולא יאות לעשרת אלפים. That is lightyears away from the statement R' Dessler attributes to him or endorsing the yeshivah priority of producing gedolim at the cost of driving some kids off the derech. (Right or wrong, the Rambam doesn't say that; if he wants to quote the Shem Tov that's fine, but R"D doesn't.)

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    15. It is sufficient to show that he was familiar with the MN, that he quotes it chapter and verse. Not just "shamati" as you erroneously thought in the previous discussion. I have no idea if he was an "expert" in the MN. But he was an expert in Jewish theology. Infinitely more so than some Tom, Dick, or Harry, who is a complete am haaretz in all other matters, but writes some essays about "the weltanschauung of Maimonides" (example above, graciously provided by "Anonymous").

      As for your kashe on him, I would say that's probably why he doesn't quote a source, just "mazkirim divrei haRambam". He's just quoting what people say.

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    16. He shows familiarity with MN the same as any decent yeshiva bochur. Eitz HaDaas, God extends hashgachah over man, negative attributes of God. You obviously think I was saying he's an am haaretz, but I wasn't. I'm saying there's no evidence he studied it (or similar works) at all, and a few citations of very famous pieces shows he's not an utterly ignorant person, which no one claimed he was. He quotes others quoting a shocking statement from the Rambam and has no idea where it is or if it's accurate. That doesn't sound like someone who knows the MN especially because he should know it's a distortion of the introduction. Honestly, I don't even know how that's responsible behavior. If you quote a very important figure making an absolutely shocking statement you better make sure it's accurate.

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    17. You're speaking nonsense, most yeshiva bochurim no matter what the denomination, don't know any of these things (unfortunately). I challenge you to go into any yeshiva, from BMG to YU, and ask them what the MN says about the eitz had'as. And of those who know, many will know from Rav Dessler!

      You in fact did claim he was utterly ignorant of MN, here is the quote:

      "In one case he references the MN by saying "shamati" that it says such and such in the MN (in the intro!!!) and he misquotes it. So, R' Dessler didn't know the MN ad k'dai kach that he couldn't quote even the intro on his own, but was quoting something he had *heard* from it."

      Do you concede you were utterly incorrect?

      "There is no evidence that he studied it"

      There is no evidence he studied anything. Maybe he didn't study Parshas Ki Savo, or Sefer Yehoshua, or the the fourth perek of Brachos, or Medrash Aicha either. After all, where's the evidence? A few citations? I have no idea how much he studied anything in particular, all I know is that from his sefer, it *looks* like he was familiar with MN. The best I can conclude from the relatively smaller number of citations is that he didn't consider it as important, compared to Medrashim, or Ramban, or Chovos Halevavos.

      As for the quote about מותו אלף סכלים ויהנה ממנו חכם אחד, he doesn't even claim to be quoting MN, how can you say it shows anything about his knowledge of MN? You are just nitpicking and finding things to complain about, and then saying your complaints show that he knew less Jewish theology than an am-ha'aretz professor 🤦‍♂️.

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    18. I'm sorry you frequent low quality schools. These MNs are well known to any inquisitive bochur, of which there still are a few, nowadays.

      I see my initial characterization was indeed correct. He quotes others quoting the Rambam saying something, and he knew so little about the MN not to realize that their quotation was obviously a distortion of the hakdamah to MN! How did he not realize that?

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    19. What a silly thing to say. Actually, it shows how little YOU know of the Rambam's writings, to not realize that the quotation is a paraphrase of something else the Rambam says, something much more famous than the hakdama, something any decent yeshiva bochur should know! How did you not realize that?

      Now that I told you, let's see if you can guess what it is. Let's see if with all your bluster and bombast, you know even as much as a typical yeshiva bachur.

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    20. This was discussed thoroughly elsewhere-
      http://daattorah.blogspot.com/search?q=dessler & links mentioned there.
      I would point out that RD sees himself functioning on this detail not as a decisor but as historian, & taking no responsibility as to how much the sources were extrapolated.

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    21. Anon, interesting, in your link the blogger misquotes R' Dessler as quoting the MN, and then based on that assumption, proceeds to debunk the source. When in fact, he just says "mazkirim divrei haRambam". Although the blogger points out the Shem tov does say something like that, but not exactly.

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    22. This is very strange. You're claiming R"D is referring to a different work entirely, when in two places I saw R"D explicitly refers to these words as coming from "[the Rambam's] letter," or even "his letter to to his student R' Yoseph Ibn Aknin," (see המעין ד p. 63) which, I'm sure you know, is the introduction to the MN. Where do you think it came from (a source R"D himself was apparently unaware of)?

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    23. Geshmake - in an even earlier printing, Sichos of Rav Dessler, p. 138, R"D also explicitly gives the Rambam's letter to ibn Aknin as the source of his quote. Nu, tell me what obvious mareh makom R"D overlooked?

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    24. Why do you think that "his letter to to his student R' Yoseph Ibn Aknin" is the MN? Wiki tells me it is NOT the same person as to whom the MN was addressed.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_ben_Judah_ibn_Aknin

      "Ibn Aknin is known to have known Maimonides in North Africa, and draws on many of the same sources, sharing a similar outlook. But he is not the Joseph ben Judah to whom the Guide is addressed."

      Don't you think that if R' Dessler meant the MN, he would have said so? He had no problem calling it the MN elsewhere.

      I am still waiting for your response. What extremely famous thing that the Rambam says, known to every yeshiva bochur, sounds an awful lot like ימותו אלף סכלים ויהנה ממנו חכם אחד? Much more so than that line in the hakdama? Oh, Dave, who thinks he knows more theology than R' Dessler?

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    25. Sir, open a MN - it's on the very first page כתב הרב המחבר לתלמידו התלמיד החשוב ר יוסף ש"ץ ב"ר יהודה נ"ע. This is getting comical.

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    26. It's a machlokes between the scholars about which R"Y was meant (Friedlander for example gives it as ibn aknin.) This is irrelevant though - which letter to Ibn Aknin do you think R"D meant? He says explicitly that's what he has in mind!

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    27. Punkt Abarbanel also thinks the talmid to whom the MN was written was ibn aknin, because in Abarbanel's first comment he says that the student was the one who wrote a peirush on Shir HaShirim, al derech hapshat, derush and chochmah. That's Ibn aknin, not the other one.
      In any event, which letter to Ibn Aknin did R"D have in mind? And what obvious source of Rambam's do you think R"D overlooked? Inquiring minds want to know!

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    28. "In any event, which letter to Ibn Aknin did R"D have in mind?"

      Why do you think he had any particular letter in mind? He is just quoting that he heard other people saying. People saying "the words of the Rambam in his letter to to his student R' Yoseph Ibn Aknin". He doesn't have to verify every single thing he heard people saying bsheim letters of the Rambam. Especially because the quotation sounds very much like, and is very consistent with the things the Rambam wrote elsewhere. Plus, don't you think that if R' Dessler meant the MN, he would have said so? He had no problem calling it the MN elsewhere.

      I don't think you mean to inquire. There is an obvious and famous source in the Rambam that sounds very much like the idea of ימותו אלף סכלים ויהנה ממנו חכם אחד. A source known to every yeshiva bochur. And you claim to know more Rambam than R' Dessler did, so you should easily know it, right?

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    29. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    30. Sorry buddy, it's mefurash in R"D that he meant a specific letter. (The intro to MN was written as a letter so it is sometimes referred to as such.) Besides for these two places he also quotes it in another place on his own (see his sefer hazikaron p. 34), where he is discussing the study of MN in general, and he says not to study it on your own because כבר כתב הרמב"ם זל במכתבו שיודע הוא שיש לטעות בדבריו שם אך כתבם רק לחכמים והוסיף לאמר "ימותו אלף סכלים ויהנה ממנו חכם אחד. So again, I"m curiosity, which open, well-known source did R' Dessler forget on more than one occasion?

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    31. Agav, from the context there it's also clear that R"D considered himself sufficiently proficient in MN, but the "question" at hand is whether he was misquoting the introduction to MN. R"D states clearly in two places (3 editions) that that's what he has in mind. But of course, the resident apologist is going to explain to us how R"D "really" meant something else without realizing it. I'm so curious as to which of Rambam's famous writings you think R"D didn't know!

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    32. As I quote above, R"D quotes it HIMSELF somewhere else! So, what famous Rambam did he overlook?

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    33. Ok, it is clear you have more material from Rav Dessler than I do. I only saw MM and Hameayin. I will no longer argue that point, and concede it. You are definitely correct, he was misquoting the MN.

      To recap. You found that Rav Dessler seemingly misquoted the MN. Originally you said that proves he was ignorant of it "ad k'dai kach that he couldn't quote even the intro on his own" Now you say from the context elsewhere that he seemingly considered himself proficient in it. So I would say, all I can see is that he misquoted the MN from memory. Not that he never looked at it, and just relied on what he heard. Does that settle the matter?

      As for what I *thought* R' Dessler was referring to when I saw MM, I am referring to the Peirush Hamishnayos, of course. And not that R' Dessler was unfamiliar with *that*, farkert, since the Rambam is mashma like that line in Peirush Hamishnayos, it is very to mix that up with MN. Even for R' Dessler.

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    34. @Dave & Happy
      Briefly, what is the full list of quotes from Rambam & RD about this? Thank you.

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  2. How is a Kollel run? Is there an annual fee to cover tuition for all courses, similar to a college? If so prospective students could be given a total or partial scholarship to cover the fees. Charitible donations would be given to the Scholarship Fund, not to the individual student. Perhaps this type of school organization will affect the answers to this question about Rambam's meaning.

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    1. A student in Kollel pays no tuition, and is given a monthly "stipend". Most kollels will deduct from the stipend for absences or lateness, while some will give perks to add to the monthly stipend, by composing a pilpul or the like.

      There is Mifal HaShas, which has a fixed curriculum of either 20 or 30 daf of Gemara per month, or 8-10 daf of Shulchan Aruch, on which there is an exam at the end of the month. A grade over 90 will grant the student an additional $100, a grade over 80 will grant $80, and a grade over 70 will grant an additional $70. Mifal HaShas is run entirely on donations. The exams are not only for kollel people--even yeshivas have their students take the Mifal HaShas exams.

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  3. If you didn't say tikkun chatzos last night you can hardly complain about others keeping an evolving version of Halacha from the version kept by either Rabbi Yosef Cairo or Rabbi Moshe Isserles.

    Many Halachic conclusions are predetermined in the cultural eye of the beholder. Halachic language is the fruitless attempt to ascribe universality to particularity.

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    1. But it's not right to say, "This is the opinion of the Rambam", if the Rambam is so vehemently against living off charity in other statements.

      By all means, bring the opinions that say that it's okay--but don't count the Rambam among them.

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    2. What makes you think Shulhan Arukh didn't mention any innovations not found in Talmud?

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    3. They were bringing in the Chofetz Chaim's position on the Rambam, in Biur Halacha OC 231.

      Also Rav Moshe Feinstein (Yoreh Deah 4:36, 2:116) gives his similar take on the Rambam.

      These are a few examples of those who held that the Rambam held this way.

      So... yes, they have backing to say that this is the opinion of the Rambam.

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    4. Those others claim (inaccurately) that it is an unevolved version.
      Pointless comment.

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    5. @Anonymous: Then what does the Rambam say is forbidden, and that it's a chillul Hashem?
      כָּל הַמֵּשִׂים עַל לִבּוֹ שֶׁיַּעֲסֹק בַּתּוֹרָה וְלֹא יַעֲשֶׂה מְלָאכָה וְיִתְפַּרְנֵס מִן הַצְּדָקָה הֲרֵי זֶה חִלֵּל אֶת הַשֵּׁם וּבִזָּה אֶת הַתּוֹרָה וְכִבָּה מֵאוֹר הַדָּת וְגָרַם רָעָה לְעַצְמוֹ וְנָטַל חַיָּיו מִן הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. לְפִי שֶׁאָסוּר לֵהָנוֹת מִדִּבְרֵי תּוֹרָה בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה. אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים (משנה אבות ד ה) "כָּל הַנֶּהֱנֶה מִדִּבְרֵי תּוֹרָה נָטַל חַיָּיו מִן הָעוֹלָם". וְעוֹד צִוּוּ וְאָמְרוּ (משנה אבות ד ה) "אַל תַּעֲשֵׂם עֲטָרָה לְהִתְגַּדֵּל בָּהֶן וְלֹא קַרְדֹּם לַחְפֹּר בָּהֶן". וְעוֹד צִוּוּ וְאָמְרוּ (משנה אבות א י) "אֱהֹב אֶת הַמְּלָאכָה וּשְׂנָא אֶת הָרַבָּנוּת", (משנה אבות ב ב) "וְכָל תּוֹרָה שֶׁאֵין עִמָּהּ מְלָאכָה סוֹפָהּ בְּטֵלָה וְגוֹרֶרֶת עָוֹן". וְסוֹף אָדָם זֶה שֶׁיְּהֵא מְלַסְטֵם אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת:
      הלכות תלמוד תורה, 3:10

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    6. I don't know... you'll have to ask the Chofetz Chaim or Rav Moshe Feinstein. I also believe Rav Ovadia Yosef held similarly.

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    7. @Anonymous: There must be some situation that everyone agrees that the Rambam would consider it a chillul Hashem.

      Let's say someone makes a parnassah from earning interest on loans. You can say, "What you're doing is a chillul Hashem! A religious man earning money off interest! Don't you know it's an explicit issur?!"

      The person can respond: "But I lend out money only for financial purposes, and I use a היתר עיסקא."

      I understand that there are justifications for supporting people learning Torah. This is what the Kessef Mishneh writes on the above quoted Rambam:

      "It is possible to explain that our master's intention is that a person should not cast off the yoke of labor in order to receive his livelihood from others in order to study. Rather, first, he should learn a profession with which he can sustain himself. If that is sufficient for him, it is good. If not, he may receive his livelihood from the community...
      Even if this is not our master's intention, as apparent from his Commentary on the Mishnah, whenever one is in doubt about the halachah, one should follow the custom. We have seen all the Sages of Israel, both before and after our master, accepting their livelihood from the community.
      Furthermore, even if the halachah followed our master..., it is possible that all the sages of the [previous] generations agreed to do so because...if the livelihood of the scholars and the teachers were not available, they would not be able to labor in Torah as is fitting, and the Torah would be forgotten, Heaven forbid. Since it is available, they are able to study, "and Torah is magnified and becomes stronger."


      https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/910975/jewish/Talmud-Torah-Chapter-Three.htm

      So it's clear that supporting Torah learning is done because of other considerations, not because we're following the Rambam. The Rambam would prefer that everyone have a livelihood, and not live off the support of the community.

      I learned in kollel where our Rosh Kollel learned in the Mifal HaShas program for 10 years, learning 30 daf of Gemara a month, with Rashi and Tosfos. He completed the entire Shas this way.

      In Mifal HaShas, there is a 3-hour exam, with 25 very comprehensive essay questions, that he would take every month. If I recall correctly, he said that he never had a score less than 90 on those exams--for 10 years! When he interviewed for the position to be Rosh Kollel, he demonstrated that he could open a Gemara, any Gemara, and tell you the content of each Tosfos on the page--on the spot!

      I don't think that people like Ya'ir Lapid would say that such a person is a "parasite, living off the funds of the State of Israel". (When I last heard of what he is doing, he earns a living editing and redacting Torah-related books for publication.)

      The problem arises when people are using תורתו אומנותו as an excuse.

      It's quite painful to hear the non-religious call charedim "parasites"--in the Knesset plenum!

      We can't just say, "Well, Rav Ovadiah, the Chafetz Chaim, and Rav Moshe Feinstein say that what we're doing is okay." They secular community in Israel doesn't accept such an answer!

      That's where "chillul Hashem" comes in.

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    8. "It's quite painful to hear the non-religious call charedim "parasites"--in the Knesset plenum!

      "We can't just say, "Well, Rav Ovadiah, the Chafetz Chaim, and Rav Moshe Feinstein say that what we're doing is okay." They secular community in Israel doesn't accept such an answer!

      "That's where "chillul Hashem" comes in."

      -------

      The primary concern is to keep the Halacha. A good public image is a secondary concern--if possible you put lots of effort to maintain it; but when necessary you do without it and it's relatively unimportant. Neither a Chillul Hashem.

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  4. the answer is Rambam Pirke Avot 4.5 Prepare yourself for a shook.

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    1. How dare someone claim that Rambam supports kollel, while ignoring Rambam Pirke Avot 4.5 (and hilchot Talmud Torah, obviously)? There is no margin for doubt there. Very strong lashon.

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  5. Ironically, Rabbi Dr. Slifkin finds himself in the company of Rav Chaim Kanievsky on this issue. R. Chaim writes in Derech Emunah on this passage:
    אין כוונת רבינו שיקח מהבריות שהרי בפ"ג מת"ת ה"י התרעם על זה הרבה אלא כונתו שיעשה השתדלות מועטת והקב"ה ישלח ברכה במעשה ידיו ויוכל להתפרנס בכל מה שצריך לו.
    He cites as sources "Radvaz and Ma'aseh Rokeiach."

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    1. It's not really ironic since it's pashut that is the correct pshat in the Rambam

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    2. I'm just curious: Does RCK think that the charedi world is at odds with the RMBM, just that we don't pasken like him? OR is he under the impression that the Charedi world is not financially reliant on the larger society in harmony with RMBM?

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    3. Presumably RCK would just say we don't pasken like him. Like the Bais Yosef.

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    4. I find it odd; it seems to be more than a halachick difference. Seems to be a different worldview altogether.

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  6. What's the source for the idea that Zevulun marketed Yissachar's produce?

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  7. Did you receive a reply to your letter?

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  8. What does "sustain the world even mean?" If they stop learning than what happens?

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  9. Rambam wrote: The Lord will grant him adequate sustenance in this world.
    He did not write that the public is obligated to support him.

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  10. "According to Rambam, someone learning in kollel is simply in no way doing what Levites did. The Levites were not sitting and learning all day; they were primarily teachers."

    Vast majority of people in kollel want to eventually teach. Either as rebbeim, rabbis, roshei kollel, or even kiruv. Granted there aren't enough position for everybody. That said, when they are in kollel, they are also teaching other members of the kollel, some of whom will fill those positions. So they are actually increasing the Torah education in the world. Only somebody who doesn't value Torah education would say that what they are doing has no value.

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    1. This is certainly untrue. The vast majority of people that are long term learners are there because they believe long term learning to be an end in its own right. Those that end up teaching do so "mimayleh" - it was never the reason they joined. It's also why the quality of rebbe's in yeshivisheh schools suck; the competition is fierce, the pay is low and it attracts unskilled people who aren't qualified and don't particularly want to be there in the first place. The good rabbeim end up teaching more balebtish schools or even modern ones that pay top dollar. Another downside to industrial-torah complex.

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    2. Nah, certainly is true. I don't trust the impressions of jaded ex-yeshivish.

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    3. Why would fierce competition bring down the level of quality? It actually works the opposite way in every other market

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    4. It brings down the quality because now the qaulified people who want to be rabbeim are now competing with people who just want a shteller. And connections and "gaoinis" will supersede the actual skills that are needed.

      @happy, thats no response.

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    5. BM: "It's also why the quality of rebbe's in yeshivisheh schools suck;

      If you mean by Yeshivisheh standards, you're living in an alternate universe. If you mean by modern standards the Yeshivisheh put no premium on it.

      "the the competition is fierce, the pay is low and it attracts unskilled people who aren't qualified and don't particularly want to be there in the first place."

      Still in the alternate universe. Low pay weeds out the non idealists. And once they become teachers it's their calling.

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  11. When Rambam says "kol ba'ei olam" he is not referring only to Jews or to gentiles who have converted to Judaism. In Moreh Nevukhim, he makes clear in numerous places that he is speaking about anyone who comes to the true knowledge of God--or in the mashal at the end of the Moreh--"the person who gets inside to see the King. Anyone--Jew or gentile--can attain this. However, to achieve this level the person must study logic, the natural sciences, philosophy and then metaphysics (the divine science). Rambam specifically excludes people who only study Torah and are experts in "the science of the Law" (See Moreh III:51) from this category. Rambam also says the same in Hilchot Talmud Torah, stressing that when one is mature he should spend most of his day studying "Pardes", by which Rambam means science and metaphysics. None of this sounds like our kollel bachurim

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    1. I neglected to put my name on that reply. I am Eugene Korn

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  12. So, Levites only teach, but do not learn? It's a novel way of [mis]interpreting Rambam.

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    1. Obviously one cannot teach if he does not learn. The point Rabbi Slifkin was making is learning as an end in and of itself is not the role of Shevet Levi. Rather, the learning is for the sake of “lhorot derachav… l’rabim,” Also known as teaching.

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  13. From their website: "The Bais HaVaad will lead the campaign to restore dignity and public trust in the bais din institution."

    What a joke.

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  14. My idea is that kollel should be a meritocracy. We do need to have our own scholars but only the best and the brightest warrant the support of the community at large. Give everyone who wants to a 2-year try-out period and be supported by the community. If he proves to be one of the best, then he may continue for as long as he wants. if he doesn't make the cut, he can still stay, buy on his own dime.
    Those who make the cut would not in kollel to just stuff his their own heads with knowledge. He would be expected to also do a few more things to benefit the community: he would have to write his thoughts down to preserve them for the future and the community's benefit. I am talking here about a vetted, scholarly journal, available to all. He would also have to give lectures and courses to the community, for no or minimal pay (the community is already providing him a living) as another way to spread his knowledge and new ideas.

    Those who think that everyone should preferably just sit and learn are advocating a failed social and economic model, and we can see the proof in Israel. It seems that those who support unconditional kollel have to be willfully ignorant of what Chazal have actually said.

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    1. So basically the metzuyanin idea of dov lipman.

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    2. Not exactly original or exclusive to Dov Lipman! Perhaps it would be more original to subsidize only the worst, or by a lottery, but that would not encourage excellence.

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    3. Dunno who Dov Lipman is, but laypeople have been saying variations on this theme for decades. Kollel as understood by Ben-Gurion, ie a few (a few hundred?) students set aside would be fine. Make sure the goal is to become teachers or poskim or rabbanim. Allow anyone to apply and try-out and even participate for a year or two or three. But eventually, the roshei yeshiva should be able to select those whom they deem worthy of staying for the long term, and everyone else should leave - and the community as a whole should support the idea that everyone else can learn a trade, get a job, and support his family. The R"Y could use whatever criteria they want as to how to select whom to stay, but presumably there would some measure of ability to learn deeply and well for some, the ability to master huge amounts of yedi'os for others, and the ability to practically apply to real situations for a third group - so that the kollelim would be producing the highest levels of scholars, rabbanim, and poskim.

      Night seder, weekend shiurim, and "yarchei kallah"-type of setups could be used to maintain the learning ability in those who no longer remain learning full time, so they can "recharge their spiritual batteries."

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  15. The attempt to equate the kollel student with שבט לוי is far-fetched. Seeker above has already cited RCK in דרך אמונה. See also RCK in his קרית מלך. It's also implicit in the פסוק that the רמב"ם cites. The ת"ח described by the רמב"ם here is not your average kollel student. There's שבט לוי & there's שבט יששכר. The latter takes money & the former somehow relies entirely on God, and/or supports himself. This is not my conclusion- it's from R' Ahron Kotler z"tl! Later I found the same idea in the כתב סופר in the name of his father (Also see נצי"ב on דברים י:ח for a possible parallel interpretation). (Note, that none of this negates kollel, it only rejects שבט לוי as the model for a kollel student who takes money.)

    Furthermore, the phrase "sat and learned all day and they were taken care of by the rest of the nation" is subject to dispute. It's clear that the support due to שבט לוי does not continue in גלות. Some explain it because outside of א"י, nobody has a portion of land & so שבט לוי are not any different than any other needy person. Others explain that it's because of their service in the בית המקדש. Either way, it's not because of their Torah study, per se.
    Again, this does not negate kollel support, only the questionable reading of the Rambam & שבט לוי.

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  16. The reason the Kollel system is so successful nowadays is because there was never so much wealth amassed in the hands of religious Jews.
    Any "gofundme" project advertised in any "Matzav", "Theyeshivaworld" etc (whether it is legit or not) gets an overflow of money for the very same reason: It makes the giver feel good, and he has an overabundance of funds in any event.
    If ch"v there is a serious downturn of the economy, all bets will be off, and so will be all the free-flowing money.

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    1. "If ch"v there is a serious downturn of the economy..."

      This happened in Israel some years back ... and nothing changed. They just starved more.

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  17. I think most of this discussion misses the point.

    If you are engaging in a yeshivish-like discussion about sources that are supposedly for or against 'Kollel-for-All', you've already lost the battle. You're leaving yourself open to someone's posek paskening that he interprets a source (the Rambam, in the current discussion) in whatever way aligns with what their society deems desirable. After all, Torah Sh’Baal Peh is dynamic and we follow the poskim of our generation and how they interpret sources.

    You shouldn't be having a source-based discussion about something which is so obviously wrong. I know this is a hard thing for yeshiva-educated people to understand and I know that there’s a desire to make a point to the Charedi-world ‘Lshitatam’, but you can’t have an academic discussion in which you discuss sources about something which is so obviously wrong. This is true of both army service and contribution to the economy.

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    1. You are probably right. What is the correct way to respond to this? Just Austritt?

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  18. It's easy to lie in English...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_NCMowIax8&t=1s

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  19. Was there ever a period in Jewish history where most people sat and learned? Even, say, during the times of the Mishna (when, according to yeridas hadoros absolutists "the average person was on the level of the Vilna Gaon)?
    Simple answer: No.

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  20. I think it is stretching the meaning of the Rambam to be saying he meant that the primary job of the Tribe of Levi was to teach or that the one emulating it is to teach any more than it would be to say he too is to be set apart for special religious service like the Tribe of Levi. It is rather here's a person learning and contemplating and building himself spiritually and Hashem provides for him as a result. Not the Kollel system but the fact is the Rambam sees him as someone not interested in making it big materially.

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    1. A "stretch"?! He says explicitly that this is what Levi were doing!!

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    2. Even the Tribe of Levi analogy doesn't give a blanket היתר to devote your life to learning Torah, if you don't see success in your learning:
      (Rashi on Bamidbar 8:24):
      From the age of twenty-five years: Elsewhere (4:3) it says, “From the age of thirty.” How can this be reconciled? However, from the age of twenty-five they came to study the laws of the service; they would study for five years, and at the age of thirty they would [begin] work. From here we learn that a student who does not experience success in his learning for five years, will never experience it. — [Chul. 24a]

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    3. The Steipler responded to this, I think in Chayei Olam.

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  21. Yes he does say that. That wasn't my question.

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  22. what i always found astonishing is that the Rambam did not even consider himself worthy of the level of Leviim and therefore worked for a living. How could anyone today consider himself worthy of acting like a Levi?

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    1. Actually... his brother supported him for many years while he learned (and became the Rambam).

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    2. Incorrect. His brother helped with handling his investments.

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    3. https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11124-moses-ben-maimon

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  23. Rav Aharon Lichtenstein makes a similar point about שבט לוי with regards to army exemptions which applies here as well.

    “ Finally, even if we grant that the Rambam's statement does imply a categorical dispensation in purely halachic terms, it remains of little practical significance. We have yet to examine just to whom it applies. A levi [sic] is defined genealogically. Those who are equated with him, however, literally or symbolically, are defined by spiritual qualities; and for these the Rambam sets a very high standard indeed. He present an idealized portrait of a selfless, atemporal, almost ethereal person - one whose spirit and intelligence have led him to divest himself of all worldly concerns and who has devoted himself "to stand before God, to serve Him, to worship Him, to know God; and he walks aright as the Lord has made him and he has cast off from his neck the yoke of the many considerations which men have sought." To how large a segment of the Torah community - or, a fortiori, of any community - does this lofty typology apply? To two percent? Five Percent? Can anyone... confront a mirror and tell himself that he ought not to go to the army because he is kodesh kodashim, sanctum sanctorum, in the Rambam's terms? Can anyone with even a touch of vanity or a concern for kavod contend this? Lest I be misunderstood, let me state clearly that I have no quarrel with economic aspiration or with normal human foibles per se. again, least of all do I wish to single out b'nei yeshivot for undeserved moral censure. I do feel, however, that those who would single themselves out for saintliness should examine their credentials by the proper standard”

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  24. The view of Rambam is far from simple and certainly not as black and white as the author of this blog believes.
    See below excerpt from Rabeinu Avrohom ben horambam in his Sefer Hamaspik:
    וממה שצריך אתה לדעת גם כן שבהנהגת קהלות ישראל חובה לבחור מהן אנשים
    יראי שמים, מתרחקים מדבר עברה, פורשים מחיי העולם הזה, חפצים בחיי העולם
    הבא, מתבודדים תמיד בבית הכנסת לתלמוד תורה ולהתפנות לעבודת ה',
    מתעסקים בעניין החשוב הדתי הזה במקום עסקי העולם הזה. ויש לכלכל אותם
    בצורכיהם כפי שהוא יתעלה ציווה לעשות למען הכהנים והלויים.
    ואלו הם שהחכמים ז"ל קוראים להם 'בטלנים שלבית הכנסת'. במשנת מגלה ,
    ג( כתוב:' איזו היא עיר גדולה, כל שיש בה עשרה בטלנין, פחות מיכן הרי זו כפ
    ובתלמוד גם כן: 'כל כרך שאין בו עשרה בטלנים שלבית הכנסת נדון ככפר'. וכבר
    טענו מקצת המפרשים, שהכוונה בעשרת הבטלנים הללו דיינים, סופרים, לחזן
    הכנסת, למלמד תינוקות וכיוצא בהם. וזאת הייתה דעתו של אבא מארי זצ"ל גם כן
    בראשונה. אחר כך חזר בו ממנה. והוא ז"ל כראוי חזר בו ממנה, כי אין חובה חזן
    ול דיין וכיוצא בהם להיות ללא עיסוק כלל ולא ששניהם ישהו בבית הכנסת, כך
    שיקראו להם 'בטלנים שלבית הכנסת'. ולפיכך תיקן ז"ל את פירושו עליהם

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    1. This is very typical. There are contradictions throughout the Rambam (especially in the Moreh Nevuchim). People spend a lot of time resolving them. This happens in the Gemara all the time (e.g., between two braitot) and the Gemara itself often resolves them.

      The Rambam even writes in an intro to the Moreh that the contradictions in the Moreh are intentional and that he left it for the reader to notice them (as the contradicting statements are rarely if ever adjacent to each other) and that the resolution to the contradiction is something important that he wants to teach but felt it should not be taught outright.

      But the author of this blog would prefer to make excuses for the statements he disagrees with (e.g. the end of the laws of Shmita and Yovel, or the Mishnah in Avot that says "All who accept upon themselves the yoke of Torah...") instead of resolving their meaning with the statements he likes.

      He probably also has an excuse for "These and those are the words of the living G-d" as well.

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    2. You're hilarious. You would rather "make excuses" for a completely clear and unambiguous statement in the very laws of Talmud Torah. Okay, let's hear them!

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    3. RNS
      As per my previous note Rabeinu Avraham in his Sefer unequivocally says that his father the Rambam changed his mind and allowed people to be supported just for learning like the cohanim and leviim and not just teachers and chazanim.

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    4. RDS,
      You seem to be implying that you do make excuses for one side of a contradiction, and that your objection to my (unstated) point of view is which side of the contradiction I "make excuses" for.

      The Rambam is as clear at the end of Shmita and Yovel as he is in Talmud Torah. I make excuses for neither; they are both true, and the Rambam held of both of them according to their simple reading. There is a resolution to the *apparent* contradiction if you would read the Rambabm's words carefully which, in my limiteed experience, you often do not. (And the resolution does not require conjecture as to who may be included in "not only shevet Levi").

      The same is true about the apparent contradiction between the two mishnayot in Avot (One who accept upon himself the yoke of Torah..., and Good is Torah with derech eretz); neither tanna disagrees with the other, Rather the mishnayot themselves are clearly talking about different cases (as one of them states outright) - a resolution you would not like to accept because it contradicts your mission of making all that is kodesh into chol.

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    5. No, I don't need to make any excuses for what he writes at the end of Shmita, he very clearly defines what he means, and it's not people giving money to others to sit and learn.

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    6. " Rabeinu Avraham in his Sefer unequivocally says that his father the Rambam changed his mind and allowed people to be supported just for learning"

      You're conflating. Nothing in RAM's words negates the traditional understanding of the Rambam's position in the last הלכה of שמיטה ויובל. First, it's clear that the עשרה בטלנין represent a very SMALL exclusive limited group. Second, it's remains clear that those in שמיטה ויובל don't take money.

      Those scholars who take money and are covered by עשרה בטלנין, and those who don't are covered by the last הלכה of שמיטה ויובל.

      In any case, you neglected to cite the rest of the paragraph:
      ולפיכך תיקן ז"ל את פירושו עליהם בפירש המשנה "עשרה בטלנים הוא שיהיה בבית הכנסת עשרה בני אדם שלא תהיה להם שום מלאכה אלא עסקי צבור ותלמוד תורה, וקביעותם בבית הכנסת
      The he compares the עשרה בטלנין with the אנשי מעמד. But again, nothing here modifies the previous understanding that the scholars mentioned in שמיטה ויבל are NOT supported by the community. The עשרה בטלנים are distinct from them.

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    7. The modus operandi of this blog is as follows:
      1)I say (in a previous essay) a "מין"in chazal is a heretic RNS it is not! I show him Rambam says exactly that RNS says: I know better.
      2) I say "רבּנן" in Chazal is any student or scholar learning Torah RNS says it is only "Rabbis" I show him That rishonim all say as I said (BTW any yeshiva ketanah bochur knows what "רבּנן" means) RNS says :I know better.
      3) RNS says it is prohibited to take money for learning ,the son of Rambam says his father changed his mind and it is OK (It appears he is referring to Rambam in shmitta as he mentions cohanim and leviim). RNS says : I know better.
      These are a few examples. I am just not sure whether the author of this blog is a ע״ה or now lacks in his intellectual honesty due to unconscious bias. I also find the author to be intolerant to anyone else's view.

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    8. RDS,

      1) Check out Tamid's comment above; you seem to be ignoring him.

      2a) In Shmitah and Yovel, the Rambam writes that one is permitted to dedicate himself to his avodat HaShem without involving himself in making a parnassah, and that G-d will provide enough for him.

      2b) The Rambam NEVER wrote anywhere that such a person as mentioned in 2a is forbbiden from accepting sustenance from others - even from tzdakah. He does not write such a thing even in Hilchot Talmud Torah and I challenge you to quote any such statement from the Rambam. Furthermore, the Gmara (Brachot 10b) specifically allows it.

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    9. For the record, in Hilchot Talmud Torah the Rambam says that one who is osek in Torah and does not do melachah and has the INTENTION of being mitparness from tzdakah is mechalel HaShem etc.

      Nowhere does the Rambam forbid one who is "osek in avodat HaShem and casts from his neck the yoke of ..." from RECEIVING tzdakah if it is offered to him. Rambam in Hilchot Talmud Torah simply forbids such a person who does not work from INTENDING to be mitparness from tzdakah (presumably because he should be relying on HaShem and not other people).

      But if he trusts in HaShem for his parnassah and some of it (however much or little) is offered to him from tzdakah, he is not forbidden from receiving it and you can not find anywhere that the Rambam or the Ramoh say that such is forbidden.

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    10. "the son of Rambam says his father changed his mind and it is OK (It appears he is referring to Rambam in shmitta as he mentions cohanim and leviim). "

      Again, this is conflation. The Rambam is clear in Shmitta V'Yovel. Whether he changed his mind is another matter. The halacha in שמיטה ויובל, whether superseded by a change of opinion or not, stands on its own. If the Rambam changed his mind, the halacha in שמיטה ויובל still would reflect his earlier opinion. But to cite Shmitta V'Yovel as a model for modern kollel is incorrect.

      "It appears he is referring to..."
      Incorrect. As I mentioned before, the support to due לויים is only in א"י and according to many, it's compensation for their service in the בית המקדש. They are not paid to simply sit & learn. You're conflating שבט לוי (as mentioned by ר' אברהם) with שבט לוי (as mentioned in שמיטה ויובל.)

      "Rambam in Hilchot Talmud Torah simply forbids such a person who does not work from INTENDING to be mitparness from tzdakah"
      And today's kollel members fall into this category?

      Delete
    11. @Ephraim I would encourage you to learn mishna brurah 156 in Biur halocho where he also understands Rambam in Shmitta to include anyone learning. (Just like rabeinu Avrohom includes in his Sefer Hamaspik). I am also not sure why you are convinced that Rambam wasn't referring to Shevet Levi the same way his son understood.

      Delete
    12. " I would encourage you to learn mishna brurah 156 in Biur halocho"
      Are you saying that the מ"ב is arguing with the ראשונים? The ראשונים explain this halacha as referring to those don't rely on other for livelihood. The כתב סופר citing his father & R' A Kotler add that those who rely on others are יששכר & not לוי.
      Now what is the ביאור הלכה saying here? That there are exceptions to כל תורה שאין עמה מלאכה. Two distinct exceptions. Doesn't take money: לוי in שמיטה ויובל- that certainly Hashem will provide. Takes money: יששכר.
      (R' Avraham doesn't cite שמיטה ויבל- that's your inference.)

      Delete
  25. Rabbi Slifkin if the Rambam wasn't available for you to rely on what would be the difference to you?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Huh? I don't rely on, or even follow, Rambam regarding taking money for learning/teaching Torah vs. working. I follow Chazal. This post is about those who claim to be following Rambam.

      Delete
    2. The question is a general one. What's the difference to you in authority if at all if the Rambam says something in Hashkafa you consider innovative as opposed to just anyone from the days of the Rishonim who was a rabbi and philosopher?

      Delete
  26. During the 24 years that R' Akiva spent learning away from home, he worked every day (collecting twigs) to support himself and his family (Avos D' Rebbi Nassan 6:2). I'm sure at least some of his 12,000-24,000 students would have been glad to support him, but evidently he didn't want to accept.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hyehudy blog wrote a rebuttal:

    https://www.hyehudi.org/rambam-or-rabbi-moshe-ben-maimon-theres-a-difference/

    Chaim

    ReplyDelete

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