Sunday, July 17, 2022

What is the Forest and what are the Trees?

I think that we're not only getting to the crux of the difference between the charedi and religious-Zionist worldview, but also to an understanding as to why the two approaches are so worlds apart. Two comments on the previous post, Who Is Going Against The Mesorah?, from two different people championing the charedi worldview, are as follows:

"Those that continue with this lifestyle today are the Charedim. Yes, not going to work is an innovation, but not a substantive one. The basic idea behind Charedim's lives is that we judge ourselves only by the Torah and its ideals and morals."

"It doesn't matter what criticisms or complaints you lodge or observations you note... They may even be technically accurate in some manner. But they still miss the forest for the trees."

It occurred to me that herein lies the difference - the diametrically opposed views regarding what is the forest and what are the trees.

From the charedi perspective, the forest is passion for learning Torah and zeal regarding the details of halacha. Problems such as people not working are small and not substantive.

From the religious Zionist perspective, on the other hand, the forest is the overall spiritual and material wellbeing of the entire nation, for which certain religious obligations, even if not formally rated as mitzvos, are of crucial importance. In comparison to this, zeal regarding details of halachos bein adam l'Makom is of much lesser significance, and the charedi approach of Torah study replacing work is a serious problem.

To elaborate: There are certain things which are fundamental and basic. For example, the concept of a man having a job which simultaneously supports his family and contributes to the economy. This is basic to the role of a man being a man, a husband, a father, and a contributing member of society. And it is all the more important as a religious obligation when religious Jews are not some tiny minority in a large non-Jewish welfare state, but a rapidly growing large group in a state where there is Jewish sovereignty. (Cf. Chasam Sofer's powerful words about how Jews living in Israel have a responsibility to ensure that all trades and industries are well-developed.)

Charedi yeshivah students will spend endless hours learning all about the intricacies of the laws of the kesubah, much more so than non-charedim. But the very basic concept of the kesubah is completely meaningless to them and is not fulfilled by them. (I know this because I used to be part of that world.) Charedim see the forest as learning about the intricacies of the laws of the kesubah - non-charedim see the forest as the fulfillment of the actual kesubah itself.

Chazal made numerous statements about the tremendous importance of work and self-sufficiency. Even so, Chazal were generally only speaking from the perspective of its importance in terms of the personal effects on someone's character, along with his obligations to his family. Nowadays, when Jews actually have their own country and well over a third of the next generation are religious, it becomes of immeasurably greater importance that it will be a society of people who contribute to the economy rather than drain it.

A similar point applies to the army. For two thousand years it just hasn't been relevant, which is why you won't find much discussion about it in the Gemara. But nowadays it is most certainly of tremendous relevance. And so we are in a situation more like that of Biblical times - when you can see very clearly how important it was. When Moshe Rabbeinu firmly told the tribes of Reuven and Gad that it would be unacceptable for them not to share the national burden of military action, this was a fundamental and religious obligation. (And it wasn't one that they could avoid with some fanciful drush about learning Torah being an equally helpful alternative.)

Likewise, from the charedi perspective, the leaders of the nation are those who exemplify its passion for learning Torah and zeal regarding the details of halacha. But from a religious-Zionist perspective, most of these people aren't even on the playing field. To quote Rav Melamed

"Gadlut beTorah (Torah greatness, eminence) necessitates an all-embracing, fully accountable handling of serious issues facing the generation, including: the attitude towards Am Yisrael in all its diversity and various levels – both religious, and non-religious; the attitude towards mitzvoth of yishuv haaretz (settling the Land) and the on-going war which has surrounded it for over a century; the attitude towards science and work, and the contemporary social and economic questions."

Charedi "gedolim" don't even think in such terms. At best, they think in terms of the religious and material needs of individuals in charedi society (and how to obtain those resources at the cost of others), not in terms of issues facing the nation as a whole. (And in fact, they often don't even think in terms of the larger long-term situation facing charedi society itself.)

These two perspectives are worlds apart. They reflect fundamentally different conceptions of the purpose of Judaism and Torah. And there is no bridging the gap. The only thing that will make charedi society reassess its worldview is when the price of their narrow perspective has its inevitable catastrophic results. As Jonathan Rosenblum (who has woken up to this) pointed out, this could fatally impact the entire country. Unfortunately, as Ernest Hemingway famously wrote regarding bankruptcy, such disasters happen in two ways - gradually and then suddenly. That is why we can't afford to wait for that point.


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  1. In my opinion this is a wonderful assessment of both sides, and I can see very few reasons for either side to object to your respective descriptions regarding each side's ideal. However, I do not foresee inevitable catastrophic results for the hareidi system. There will always be funding from various sources, governmental (our taxes) and more so private individuals who are driven by self-serving rabbinic guilt that they are not living up to the unattainable ideal of learning enough or being dedicated enough- אנו רצים והם רצים , right?

    1. Were every Jew to adopt the extreme chareidi lifestyle, with no work other than Torah study and no military service, not only would there be no State of Israel, but the Arab rashaim would create another Holocaust. There would be no funding from governmental or private sources because there would be no income!

      Were every Jew to adopt the religious Zionist lifestyle, the State of Israel would do wonderfully.

    2. Are you living in 2005? Do you know how much state support for Charedim has been cut since then? That the Charedim are as stubborn as ever must be about more than the few meager shekels still coming their way.

      It's grotesque the way rationalists cavalierly smear Charedim with the epithet "parasite," whether directly or through innuendo. Many Charedi men do learn full time, but it is a far cry from the rantings of people here that all Charedi men are in kollel. I know a few of them. Their wives gladly, and I emphasize this, support them. Just because you disagree with the sentiment or project your biases on them doesn't change that.

      Slifkin, do you care to tell us how much state support your museum receives? It is a non-profit, is it not? Why do you not lump yourself in with the Charedim and subject yourself to the same criticism? What, are you incapable of standing on your own as a profit-making business, that you need to suckle off the teet of the state?

    3. My museum does not yet receive any state support, but hopefully one day it will. The differences between my museum and people learning in kollel should be very obvious and I'm surprised that you don't know what they are. The primary difference is, of course, that my museum provides a service to the community, unlike people in kollel. The secondary difference is that if, God forbid, the museum failed, I have an education and skills to find other forms of employment.
      Incidentally, regarding the actual data on charedim and the state, see this post:

    4. Let's cut to the chase, shall we.

      What is the budget of the State of Israel? This one is easy. This year it is NIS452 billion.

      Of that, what is disbursed to the Charedim? Care to answer this one, in a nutshell? That number, if proffered, and honest, would dispel many myths. However, the government makes it very to ascertain, with good reason.

      The rest is just wizardry, window dressing, and exuberant hand-waving. I remember that Globes post all those months ago, before I decided to see what kind of nonsense was purveyed in your saloon. I thought it was a refreshing view of the Charedim from an unexpected source. Your response is of the category of lies called "statistics" (it's not just Mark Twain who considers them manipulatively deceptive and able to justify any conclusion one desires) and is, further, full of subjective value judgements and assumptions. It's not enough that Charedim work. They need careers now. They need to aspire to higher levels of gashmius. You probably think they need more televisions too.

      As far as your museum, why don't you spell out directly what benefits society gains from the existence of your museum from a rationalist but Torah-based perspective, not a secular Western one?

      Having education and skills is no guarantee of procuring employment, merely the illusion of such. It is an assumption.

      Because it has been so long since Israel experienced intense economic distress, and was barely affected by the severe global financial crisis of 2008-9, people here have assumed the mindset that it can't happen here. Or, when the sequel of that crisis, now incipient, becomes fully manifest in the coming months to year, we will likewise be minimally affected, again. Wrong. Then you will see how well your museum, which is backed according to the whim of your patrons, not customers, weathers the storm. And how well you are able to land on your own two rational feet.

      The reason why Israel weathered the last crisis so well was that the Bank of Israel turned on the money (ie, credit, as money is loaned into existence, not "printed") spigot full blast. Until then, real estate was increasing very gradually. Looking at the numbers they published, like I did, you can practically identify the very month they did so, because after that, property values (and the general price level) took off like a rocket, and has not let up since. When that spigot is turned off, and it is in the process of doing so, the hard crash will come.

    5. Rather incoherent. Maybe a university education would have helped you put together your arguments in a more cogent fashion. It may also have helped you to develop your arguments based on researched evidence, so that people can respond back in a structured way and conclusions can be agreed in an open and collaborative way without letting one's preconceived ideas color the discussion.

    6. "The rest is just wizardry, window dressing, and exuberant hand-waving."
      You forgot hyper-verbosity.

      " It's not enough that Charedim work."

      "Having education and skills is no guarantee of procuring employment"
      Irrelevant. Having an education and skills for the purpose of procuring employment is a Torah obligation.

      "Then you will see how well your museum, which is backed according to the whim of your patrons, not customers, weathers the storm. And how well you are able to land on your own two rational feet."
      That was rather nasty.

      " the Bank of Israel turned on the money ... Until then, real estate was increasing very gradually."
      " property values (and the general price level) took off like a rocket,"
      Look at the housing price index and contrast it to the consumer price index. There's no comparison. To blame the housing crisis entirely on monetary policy is erroneous.

    7. Commenting more directly on Charlie Hall's post- if the whole State were learners but not earners, and the State went under, it would not be understood as a failure of behavior, but as "the goyim didn't let us have our land again."

      Responding to Shimshon's museum diatribe- why do societies build museums at all? Sure, some small museums are basically "this rich guy wants to show off his art" but most civilized societies recognize that having places of learning and culture for adults is uplifting and educational. So attacking the museum on a "oh yeah? But what about you?" type of basis is silly and willfully blind.

      You want to argue that THIS museum has nothing to offer, then that is a different argument. Most of us would disagree with you. Clearly, you've never been there (I've only been to the previous location, full disclosure) or you would have seen parts of Torah that you never were exposed to come alive. (And since I went in the Before Times, I got to sample the large collection of shofaros - much fun!)

    8. "The differences between my museum and people learning in kollel should be very obvious and I'm surprised that you don't know what they are. The primary difference is, of course, that my museum provides a service to the community, unlike people in kollel."

      I was actually quite surprised when I saw this statement. It brings to mind the famous gemara in Sanhedrin 99b:
      אפיקורוס כגון מאן? אמר רב יוסף כגון הני דאמרי מאי אהנו לן רבנן לדידהו קרו לדידהו תנו!!!
      R' Elya Ber has been vindicatedץ

    9. Also, in the hypothetical scenario that I became an apikores, it would not mean that Rav Elya Ber was vindicated. He made a claim about the content of my book that was wrong. If I were to become an apikores, it would more likely be as a result of his actions.

    10. Not sure why people in Kollel are not Rabbanan. Some may not be but I know plenty who are tremendous Talmidei Chachomim

      Re REB, sorry, I did not mean to insult you. I think you are a little hurt from your past experiences and I shouldn't have brought it up.

    11. " It's not enough that Charedim work."

      Ephraim, if you had read the post Slifkin wrote last November in response to a positive article in Globes about the Charedim in Israel, he said Charedim need a profession (his word; or career, my word). No longer is working enough for detractors. Hence, all this talk about Charedim working is a canard. I should not have to clarify this at all, since the next sentence made clear what I meant.

    12. Richie, you idiot. Slifkin pointed to his post last November as containing hard data about Charedim not working, which I read, and responded to. I also happen to have a "university education" in a STEM field, unlike Slifkin, and probably many others here. You are the idiot making assumptions.

    13. @ML & @RNS

      seems to me RNS is using a "short hand" when saying "people in kollel" it has to be read in the the context: "museum provides a service to the community, unlike people in kollel" he appears (RNS, correct me if I'm wrong) to be referring to those people in Kollel who do not provide a service to the community. This seems to be also the same point he was making from his statement "People in kollel are not 'Rabanan.' " It appears to me he is distinguishing between "Rabbanan" an apparent short hand term he uses for those who learn in Kollel (ML uses the term "Tamidei Chachomim") who then go out in the world and use their learning to better society, whether by teaching others or perhaps publishing volumes for others to learn from, or elsewise.

      The reference to "people in Kollel" would then be those who learn in kollel but DO NOT go out and impart their learning to others. (again I might be completely misunderstanding the point RNS was getting at, so correct me if I'm wrong)

      IF I'm right, then I think it's clear that the quote from San. 99b: אפיקורוס כגון מאן? אמר רב יוסף כגון הני דאמרי מאי אהנו לן רבנן לדידהו קרו לדידהו תנו
      has absolutely nothing to do with "people in Kollel." (as I've defined it above) The point of that Gemara is precisely that those Rabanan would use their learning to help others and NOT simply learn for their own sole benefit of learning.

      That the Gemara MUST be referring to those who are "Rabbanan" (meaning they use what they learn to go out and make society better) is perfectly clear from the the next line in the Gemara (San. 99b)
      אמר ליה אביי האי מגלה פנים בתורה נמי הוא דכתיב (ירמיהו לג, כה) אם לא בריתי יומם ולילה חקות שמים וארץ לא שמתי אמר רב נחמן בר יצחק מהכא נמי שמע מינה שנאמר (בראשית יח, כו) ונשאתי לכל המקום בעבורם

      both pesukim quoted are about "doing" some aspect of torah or taking some other appropriate "action" (not simply learning). Yalkut in Yirmiyahu:אמר ר' אלעזר אלמלא תורה לא נתקיימו שמים וארץ שנאמר אם לא בריתי יומם ולילה חקות שמים וארץ לא שמתי. שמעון התימני אומר בזכות המילה אני (יח) קורע להם את הים שנאמר אם לא בריתי וגו'

      (unrelatedly, Rashi prefers a different understanding of the posuk and points out that the midrashic understanding doesn't even seem to fit " ורבותינו דרשוהו לענין ברית התורה ללמוד מכאן שבשביל התורה נבראו שמים וארץ אך אין המדרש מיושב על סדר המקראות" )

      and with regard to the posuk from Vayera about the 50 righteous, it's again not talking about someone who just learns; Sforno says explicitly:
      אם אמצא בסדום נ' צדיקים שימחו ברשעים בסדום

      But perhaps the clearest example of the point is a quote from the Gemara itself, just a few lines earlier: (San. 99a)
      תניא היה רבי מאיר אומר הלומד תורה ואינו מלמדה זה הוא דבר ה' בזה

    14. I think maybe the issue here really is that the people doing the learning, often at the expense of others, feel and express superiority to those same others.
      This is why some ordinary people have a hard time with the traditional text of the hadran at siyumim - self defined and self applied grandeur with a finger in the eye of other good jews, many of whom are sitting in the same room at the siyum.
      It's snobbery.
      And it applies to the larger sociological picture that Rabbi Slifkin described in this blog entry.

    15. "I think maybe the issue here really is that the people doing the learning, often at the expense of others, feel and express superiority to those same others."

      This is called shifting the goalposts. Is your problem that so many learn, or that you imagine, project rather, that they feel superior to you in some way? And, why do you care? Do you walk down the street self-conscious that someone somewhere may look down on you?

    16. Jeffrey, Sanhedrin 99 reads differently. People say, "what/how do the Rabanan help us? They study Mikra for themselves; they study Mishna for themselves."

      (I.e., they don't give Shiurim, they don't do counseling, they aren't involved in the community. They only do for themselves. The people aren't referring to those who are involved.)

      "Abaye says, that would be denial (cf. Rashi sv. Megaleh) of what's written in the Torah: If not for my covenant/Torah day & night I wouldn't place/maintain the laws of heaven and earth/nature.

      "RNBY says, we see this also from here: I will forgive the entire place for them."

      (I.e., they create vital but physically untraceable benefit.)

      You begin your comment with your understanding and then read it into the Gemara. Begin better with the Gemara and then read it into your understanding.

      Responding in regard to Sforno & R Meir is too involved right now; feel free to remain with your current understanding of their meaning & applicability.

    17. "some ordinary people have a hard time with the traditional text of the hadran at siyumim"

      I'm certain that this doesn't include a self-described Yekke like ML, who find spiritual meaning in their employment, as opposed to if there exists anyone whose employment has no or little spiritual meaning, but does it only for the physical meaning.

      But anyway, the hadran contrasts יושבי בהמ"ד to יושבי קרנות (שעיקר מלאכתם בשיחה. רש"י). A working person has the option to include himself in either group.

    18. Anonymous -
      Of course you are entitled to interpret San.99b as you prefer: that R. Yosef bestows the epithet of Apikores upon people who complain that Rabbanan (who really don't impart their knowledge to others) are just doing for themselves.

      I don't see how that jives with the quote of R. Meir from San. 99a (which you said is too involved for now, so I'll leave it be)

      More importantly. I just don't believe that's the point of the Gemara. When, as you state, I "Begin [] with the Gemara and then read it into [my] understanding," the result I get does not change from what I said above:
      It is clear (at least to me) that the Gemara is a Polemic against those who don't realize and appreciate that the Rabanan who Learn (and yes importantly TEACH) Torah are doing a service; just as important as the fisherman, or the stonecutter, or the weaver, or any other necessary member of the community. The contribution of those Rabanan should not be discounted just because we can't physically appreciate the benefit. I think that's the clear message in that Gemara.

    19. Jeffrey, I agree that it's intuitively accurate to say that those Rabanan who impart Torah to others are אהנו while those who don't aren't. But the way I & surely many others were taught to read Gemara, we are unable to say that those described no more and no less than as לדידהו קרו לדידהו תנו were involved with imparting Torah. And unable to understand the complaint לדידהו קרו לדידהו תנו ; if they were imparting Torah to others then לדידהו קרו לדידהו תנו is a libel. This forces us, as it were, to say that the Gemara is specifically talking about those uninvolved--yet in their merit חוקות שמים וארץ שמתי and ונשאתי לכל המקום.

      If you allow me to argue from authority see here:

      There is an additional point that I think many are missing. If, say, someone contributes to society by day, anywhere from rabbi to laborer to accountant to soldier to pediatrician to anything and everything in between, and then at night is קובע עתים himself, then his own private learning too, contributes to society via חוקות שמים וארץ שמתי and ונשאתי לכל המקום.

      It's not an everything-or-nothing deal.

      I appreciate that you gave me a pass regarding R Meir. That is very kind. Be well.

    20. "R. Yosef bestows the epithet ..."

      More correctly, R. Yosef *applies* the *Mishnah's* epithet.

      I also assume you mean "epithet" in its classic as opposed to colloquial meaning. I can't guarantee that for the other time on this page that the word was used.

    21. Anonymous -

      point well taken about what R. Yosef is actually doing with regard to the Mishna. with regard to the word "epithet" Im not sure I get the classic/colloquial distinction, whenever I use the word, I use it to refer along the lines of a "label" or "title" whether that's classic or colloquial, you can decide.

      I continue to disagree about the top point; I agree it would be libel - and argue that is precisely the problem with it. Although those who would be making the claim may not have seen it as libel, and that's why R. Yosef had to make the point explicit.

      Regarding the point about a person who is קובע עתים at night; I do not believe RNS's OP nor for that matter any of the comments in this string are discussing such a person. I will leave the question of whether that particular "Learning" itself contributes to society, or whether it is what one does with what has learned that contributes to society as an open question for a future conversation at some point.

    22. Jeffrey, the classic meaning of "epithet" is neutral, while colloquially, at least in my parts, it is quite negative.

      For everything else, let's agree to disagree on what we disagree and agree on what we agree.


    23. In that case, I guess I used "epithet" in both the classical and colloquial senses. Since although it is a label, both the Mishna and R. Yosef seem to imply "Apikores" is a bad thing (and I would tend to agree). Though I have heard of some people who believe it is a "Badge of Honor" and proudly profess to be one.

    24. For those who do consider it such, the (should be) famous quote comes to mind: "Laugh while you can monkey boy." Especially appropriate for those who believe evolution is a thing.

  2. The problem here is that the State of Israel [like pretty much every state today] believes that it is moral for each political group to use government to loot each other. If we would abandon this Marxist nonsense and embrace the principles of liberty, capitalism and sound money, it would be impossible to force people to pay for other people to live lifestyles that they disagree with. Moreover, just as slavery is illegal, so should forced military service be. As long as the socialist welfare state continues, various political groups will be at each others throats.

    1. That isn't at all Marxist; it has been a problem in democracies going back 200 years at least. Look at the history of corruption in US politics for more examples that can be listed in a single book, much less an internet comment. It is a problem with capitalism, as the capitalists use governmental authority to increase their wealth and standing. It is a problem that the US, a country that has never had a significant Marxist movement, still struggles with today.

    2. "the capitalists use governmental authority to increase their wealth and standing."
      How is that a capitalist problem? Everybody wants to increase their wealth and standing. The issue arises when governments are given powers beyond [what they were originally created for] protecting private property. As you pointed out correctly, even the US whose constitution limits government more than any other, has fallen prey to government overreach. There may not have been an overt Marxist revolution in the US, but reflect on the 20th century and you will see the poison everywhere.

    3. In communism, the state owns the property. In capitalism, the banks. If you have a mortgage, you are a property owner in name only. They are literally flip sides of the same coin, but because of very effective propaganda, people have a hard time understanding the very real problems with capitalism, pure or not.

    4. "liberty, capitalism and sound money" are on the same fictional level as "Marxism". Neither exist as socio-economic realities. What you have are myriad iterations of social-democratic and capitalist policies that clash with a society wrenched by war, racism and a religious, secular and other sectarian conflict. Subject the Israeli state to unencumbered laissez-faire economical theory and it would collapse within a generation.

    5. @Shimshon: You are correct that there is a lot of effective propaganda, however the doctrine is the exact opposite. The worlds socialist regimes (whether fascist or communist) limit private property by use of force. Capitalism on the other hand recognizes private property. A mortgage is a contractual agreement between a borrower and a lender, how is that compared to a coerced appropriation?
      @Meir Moses: In regards to your fist comment, capitalism is not [and does not claim to be] utopian. Humans are not perfect and neither will any socio-economic system. What we do know is that it is by far the best that we know of. More importantly, it is the only moral one, as it recognizes private property and gives no right for any person [or group of people] to steal. Stealing does not become moral just because the majority decided that it is for a 'good cause' or because they use government judges to rule and police to enforce.
      To quote Walter Williams, "When God told Moses 'Thou shall not steal,' I don't think that he meant unless you have a majority in the US congress."
      All forms of socialism are rooted in jealousy, which is why they are always so popular amongst the masses.
      In regards to your second point, have you ever pondered why Israeli society is wrenched by war, racism and sectarian conflict? There is nothing better for the health of a state than these 3 items topped with fiat money. I don't understand how you come to the conclusion that a laissez-fair economy [which has proven itself in every case to usher in a higher standard of living] would cause Israel to collapse. Even in Israel itself there has been a clear difference between the first 35 years of almost complete centralization [when you needed to wait years to get a telephone in your house] and the last 35.

    6. Just as much as being too socialist is not healthy for a society, being too libertarian is also not ideal - not only on moral grounds, but also on societal-economic grounds (even if a rising tide doesn't lift all boats equally, if one part of the boat falls off, everyone else is in danger).

      To Shimshon: I don't think that the banks own "all of the property." They own what is not yet paid for, and if payment collapsed they can take it away. But I know and you know many people who have paid off their mortgages and own their houses "free and clear." That is not a bug in the system but rather a feature - if it were not for mortgages, then we would be saving up our whole lives and buying homes only when we don't need them anymore! Borrowing from banks is a necessary evil on the individual level, yet on a societal level the invention of doing things on credit pretty much created the modern world.

      To Daniel: I think the forced military thing is different between Israel and other countries. Israel's very existence is under threat literally constantly. And it is a small country. Therefore, in order to survive, a draft is necessary. If Tzahal becomes all voluntary, like the US Army, will it have enough people to protect the country? Im Yirtzeh Hashem we soon should see the day when it is not necessary, but for now it is necessary.

      And for all of capitalism's flaws (I echo the comment above that it is not utopia), to borrow the line about democracy that was used by Churchill: it is the worst of all possible systems, except for all the others.

    7. Yosef even if not all boats are lifted equally, they are however, all lifted. Libertarians believe that every man is equal before the law, striving for equality of outcome is impossible and immoral. I disagree with the idea of "too socialist" and "too libertarian," there is no happy medium. Explain to me any case where it is moral to tax Peter in order to pay Paul.
      In regards to this:
      "Borrowing from banks is a necessary evil on the individual level, yet on a societal level the invention of doing things on credit pretty much created the modern world."
      There is no difference between "the individual level" and "the societal level." Banks (real banking, with real money and market interest rates which all sadly no longer exist) are not an evil at all, they are a very good and important service. In stead of money sitting idle, the bank lends it out [with interest] to entrepreneurs who use it to create jobs and goods. The interest is then paid to the depositors who now have more money to lend out etc. The problem is when government gets involved in banking and people are taught Keynesian economics. People today think that spending is good for the economy, and they run to take out consumer loans which they have no way of paying but the bank lends it to them since it is covered by FDIC which is in turn covered by the Federal Reserve's printing press. So in a way you are half right, the government controlled banking that we have today is an evil for both the individual and society. "Macro" and "micro" economics is another fiction of Keynes.
      To your point regarding the military, I will again disagree, the USA was also a small country at one point and they had an enemy to the north that was one of the worlds greatest powers at the time. Besides, how is it any different than slavery?
      That Churchill quote has nothing to do with capitalism. Capitalism can theoretically exist even under a monarchy as long as the king is limited to protecting property. It actually did exist in the very Victorian England that Churchill was born in. The USA is not once called a democracy in any of its founding documents. The constitution guarantees every state a "republican form of government." In fact, the founding fathers constantly refer to democracy only in a negative way.

    8. if it were not for mortgages, then we would be saving up our whole lives and buying homes only when we don't need them anymore!

      If it were not for mortgages, house prices would be a fraction of what they are. It is only because money is cheap that houses are so expensive.
      Not only that, a mortgage is a tax writeoff, meaning that the entire economy requires high house prices.
      Mortgages are a scourge of our generation, as is the basic premise that nothing happens without debt. There is a place for debt in the world, but not to the extent which it has leveraged the entire generation.

  3. I suppose I should be honored that a portion of my comment was cherry-picked to prove a point you are trying to make (as well as conflated with a completely unrelated comment by another commenter). Very convenient for you to omit the very sentence that preceded it: "The Charedim are far more successful in imparting their loyalty to the mesorah to the next generation free of the isms that are held in high esteem here, but which are hashkafically toxic."

    Regarding this accusation of an entire society working, or not, I don't see what you say is the case. Among my friends, a small group, all work in some manner, save one, who is an avrech dedicated to learning. Among the neighborhood I lived in, and the kehilla I was part of, the vast majority of men I know work. Lawyer. Independent businessman. Rabbi (unemployed since covid). Principle of a yeshiva ketana. Other professions. And so forth. Maybe where you live it's different. Maybe your opinion is based on personal observation. Or maybe based on media reporting. Or even merely an expression of bias or sour grapes. None of the above variations can be extrapolated to condemn an entire society for shiftlessness, but yet you do.

    1. Anecdotes aren't data, which says that 9 out of every 10 Haredi families receive more from the state than they put back into it. We thank gd indeed you are so successful in imparting this wonderful mesorah.

    2. Here's the data:

    3. Shimshon: if indeed the "vast majority" of chareidim were (to use your friend circle as examplars) lawyers and independent businessmen, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

      [ Rabbi as a job for a learner society is not a huge trick. And principal of a school, similarly - yeshiva education is certainly something that the Chareidi world does not avoid, so people are needed to staff this sphere. ]

      It is instead more common for young men who want to earn a living to be considered "frei." A cousin in yeshiva who started to work in computers only part-time (staying in yeshiva for the mornings; I don't know about night seder) was quite the exception and was belittled for it. That was a couple of years ago; hopefully the tide has shifted.

    4. Rns: I have heard the same mistake from you a few times, and it is a common one for those without training in economics.
      Overall contribution to the state economy is not measured by taxes paid vs government handouts received (government spending is a relatively small percentage of GDP). But rather, the contribution of chareidim to the Israeli economy should be viewed in terms of contribution to GDP (you can subtract what they receive back in subsidies). This is slightly lower than their percentage of the population but still runs into tens of billions of dollars every year. The proof is that if the chareidi sector would magically disappear, the Israeli economy would collapse and would require many years to recover

    5. Anonymous July 21, 2022 at 7:20 PM, "Overall contribution to the state economy is not measured by taxes paid ... But rather, the contribution of chareidim to the Israeli economy should be viewed in terms of contribution to GDP...."

      Kindly elaborate for the unfamiliar?

  4. The notion of "not working" really can only be applied to Israel, and only due to compulsory army service, which until recently was 100% hostile to charedim. Fact, not opinion.

    The general attitude among Charedim vis a vis the army (and by extension "work"), that I have witnessed personally, and I will concede that this doesn't apply to all, is softening, with the advent of the three army units (that I know of) that were specifically designed to address Charedi concerns. Where I lived, over the years, young men in army uniforms have become an increasingly visible and common presence.

    And my, and my wife's, attitude vis a vis our sons, now adults and past draft age, was always, if you want to learn lishma, we will support you and your decision, but if you want to take a seat in yeshiva simply to avoid the army when there are now acceptable options, you are on your own. Not out of love of the IDF or any kind toxic hashkafa, but because army service is part of the price of living in our land. I know people who agree with that sentiment and people who disagree. But it is an increasingly common one. I also understand where those who disagree come from, unlike you.

    I have two sons who opted for the army and joined one of the Charedi combat units. I have another one who initially thought he would do a Charedi Hesder program that combined a program designed to feed into Unit 8200 with Torah learning, but after spending time in yeshiva before enrolling, decided he loved learning, much to our surprise after a youth of not so much interest, and is dedicated 100% to it. He is even a star in his yeshiva, noted for his sharp mind but even more so for his stellar middos. Chasdei Hashem.

    This is what I told that son upon hearing of his decision: We support your decision. To the extent possible, we will support you financially. But you must understand and accept that your parnassa is in Hashem's hands, and can come from anywhere via any means at any time. You might not know how or where or when, but it will come. As long as you accept this, this is a good choice for you and we endorse it.

    This is not just Charedi hashkafa. It is Torah hashkafa. A man who fully trusts in Hashem for his sustenance and wants to learn lishma...Hashem will support him.

    1. No, that's charedi hashkafa, not Torah hashkafa.

    2. "The notion of "not working" really can only be applied to Israel, and only due to compulsory army service, which until recently was 100% hostile to charedim. Fact, not opinion."

      Really? Are you sure it was 100% - not 90% or say 50%?

      Opinion, not fact.

    3. From what I have heard through reliable sources, work is the standard for even very chassidish communities in America. They work, and they make lots and lots of money, to the point it is almost meaningless to some of them. The wealth of some of these communities boggles the mind. Even without the secular education held in such high esteem here. If they use some of that money to support people learning full time, do you get bothered by it?

    4. What people generally don't take into account is that supporting people in kollel is not just supporting people who have made a certain decision about how to live their own lives. It also involves them raising their children without the means or desire to work for a living.

    5. Credit where credit is due, Shimshon supported his kids' going to the army. Shkoyach.

    6. kollel is work. It is spiritual work. It sustains the world so it is very beneficial. And, likewise, more important.

    7. "From what I have heard through reliable sources, work is the standard for even very chassidish communities in America." Shimshon

      Shimshon - we need to have a discussion about "data" vs hyperbole.

    8. Yossi, this post is mostly a fact- and data-free zone full of the anecdotal. Not one person has documented in any credible way that work is something eschewed by the Charedim in Chu"l. It's all personal. My observation is as valid as any other.

    9. Where do you live?July 19, 2022 at 8:38 PM

      Yossi - I don't know where you live but the facts are that most Chassidim work in the US. I used to live in one major Chareidi city in the US and now live in another. These are just the facts on the ground. The chassidim, and especially Satmar, are very aggressively involved in business, with a focus on real estate and healthcare, and many make LOTS of money, live in ostentatious houses, and drive luxury cars. Escalades are their favorite.

    10. Dear "Where do you live?"

      I guess what my intention was was open to interpretation. The issue was on Shimshon saying "fact not opinion" and "From what I have heard through reliable sources" - those assertions are hyperbolic. Whether on not Satmar are involved in business is largely irrelevant to this post (by the way), since the post was about the Charedi (not Chasidic -?) community in Israel. In The Jewish State, is it hashgafilic reasonable for a segment of the population to opt out of secular engagement? In an non-jewish state that option is not available - and hence the (possible) difference in behaviour?

      That being said - Rav Slifkin's post was more an analysis of the Hashgafic difference between two communities that might be referred to as Orthodox. We can both debate the accuracy of Rav Slifkin's analysis. We can also ask the question whether Rav Slifkin's analysis is particular to Israel or more universal in application.

      (Notwithstanding your comment, I believe that what happens in Israel does set the idealized benchmark for the Charedi community outside of Israel. But I acknowledge this is opinion not fact.)

      Shimshon: Remind me again who said "fact not opinion" when offering a fact free statement (by your own admission). Who used the logical fallacy of authority ("reliable sources") to assert their opinion?

    11. Yossi, multiple people here said Charedim in chu"l have the same attitude to work that they do in HaAretz. That is an assertion and flat-out wrong.

      The only reason for the "aversion" (a word you might use, but not me) to work in Israel is the draft. Full stop. And even then, it is a vicious lie, as even Slifkin conceded, by way of admitting a large majority of Charedi men in Israel do in fact work, even if it is a lower percentage than the non-Charedi population, but defer such until the draft no longer pertains to them. That is also a fact. That a large number of men, but far from a majority, continue to learn after that attests more to adhering to Charedi ideals of learning and nothing more.

    12. It is not true that a "large majority" of charedi men in Israel work. It's only 52.5%.

    13. I stand corrected. Still, a majority. It's not like no men work. And I do wonder how accurate that stat is.

    14. Shimshon, in an ideal world, where anyone can choose to do whatever they want and be guaranteed material sustenance - would Charedim opt to work or sit in Kollel? The question is the heart of Rav Slifkin's post - what is ideal and what is compromise.

      The same question can be asked of the Dati Leumi/Modern Orthodox types - in an ideal world would I work or sit all day in Kollel?

      So the answer I give to the question as a supporter of Torah U'Madda is that going to secular work is the ideal and secular knowledge has intrinsic religious value. How you judge me based on my attitude (i.e. somehow I have less Kavod because I do sit in Kollel full time) is the answer to the question.

      So is the "aversion to work" (your words, not mine) really due to prioritising torah study over more "mundane" pursuits.

      BTW, I think you are being disingenuous in saying that the ONLY issue is army service. But that is opinion not fact- the clue is that I said "I think".

    15. "It is not true that a "large majority" of charedi men in Israel work. It's only 52.5%."
      (Not focusing on this comment in particular, just on the various studies and statistics.)

      I think that at any given time it could be 52.5%, but are there studies of people throughout their lifetimes? IOW, I assume some draft-age people will go to work after the draft age but we are counting them among the unemployed. Is there a statistic especially for post draft age? That would be an important statistic, that by the time Chareidim reach age x, x% are employed.

      By way of comparison, we'll take a poll of employment from the age 0! (and until age 100!) Of course children (and the elderly) are unemployed. They aren't meant to be. How does the draft impact the Chareidi mindset. Perhaps they're thinking sure I'd work but not at the expense of being drafted. For that age bracket -draft age- employment isn't even a consideration even though work itself is seen positively (for whatever percentage of the people). And if the IDF demonstrates more sensitivity to Chareidi priorities they would get less resistance on the employment front.

    16. @Anonymous:
      For the record, from the article that Rav Slifkin directed you to (

      "the pre-Covid 19 haredi employment rate for 25-64 year olds was 64.5%,"

      "when we consider men alone (instead of averaging the employment rate of both genders), their employment rate is only 52.5%, compared to 88% of their non-haredi Jewish counterparts. And haredi men in 2018 in work earned only 56% of what their non-haredi Jewish male counterparts did: that was partially due to a lower number of hours worked (84% of the hours worked by non-haredi men), but largely due to lower wages (67% of those of non-haredim), which itself is because they are generally working in non-professional careers."

  5. Hmmm. Sorry but this may be a long diatribe. Having nearly finished reading your latest book "Rationalism and Mysticism", it is clear to me that you are a major thinker on the Jewish community today. Your wide range of knowledge of Torah She'Biksav and Torah Baal Peh, is an eye-opener.

    Which sort of brings me on to my first point:

    Living in a Chareidi community in the UK, I have become acutely aware of the general way of thinking. There is a belief that Torah learning is the most important thing in Yiddishkeit and nothing can trump that, as it says - " תלמוד תורה כנגד כולם". End of discussion. But your latest looks into this with superb depth and considers this in much detail. Nevertheless, following the simple and naive argument of Chareidim, learning Torah sustains the world and prevents are enemies from attacking us, etc, etc. Again this is discussed extensively in your book. (I assume you know that, since you wrote it, but others may not.)

    This emphasis on learning Torah has, to some extent, distorted the main purpose of learning Torah, which Rav Asher Weiss, in his introduction to his Teshuvoh Sefer (Volume 1), explains is to know what to do as a Jew. It follows from this that the focus of one's learning should be to know what to do today and tomorrow. Currently, this is knowing the Halochos of תענית נדחה and the 3 weeks. However, in the Chareidi world, the emphasis is on getting from one Daf to the next of whatever מסכתא my Kollel is learning.

    Unfortunately, this difference in emphasis came to the fore when Covid started. This was a non topic in the Chareidi world of learning. Whereas הלכה has much to say and guide you physically and mentally on how to conduct oneself during an epidemic. An epidemic is a prime opportunity to understand the interrelationship between people. However, as Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks ZT"L explained in his book called Morality, that was published in March 2020 (at the beginning of the epidemic) we have from a "We Society" to a "Me Society". Something like:

    "What I do is my choice and my business and nothing to do with you."

    Epidemics love that attitude, as we found out to our peril.

    How does the message of כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה get through to the next generation. IMO, I can't think of a much better lesson than being part of the IDF.

    The comment by Rashi on the words of this week's Sedra החלצו מאתכם אנשים, to which Rashi comments on the word אנשים , that this refers to the צדיקים. Maybe there are other interpretations.

    1. "Whereas הלכה has much to say and guide you physically and mentally on how to conduct oneself during an epidemic."

      Rabbi Hershel Schachter has published essay after essay on this topic during the pandemic. I hope that he compiles them and publishes them as they will be a huge resource for the future.

  6. Every time the kesuba is mentioned, we know we are talking to someone who didn't actually learn Hilchos Kesubos.
    The Kesuba does not necessarily obligate a man to work to support his family. It is a machlokes between Rabbenu Eliyahu and Rabbenu Tam.
    If אפלח does not mean going to work, the entire Kesuba has a different meaning. It means that he will not abandon this wife to live a life of שוואוילטאג somewhere else. If he makes money, she eats from it. If he has assets, she also enjoys them. She will not be his mistress or slave, to be given crumbs according to his discretion. But if he chooses a life of poverty and deprivation, she has no claim on him to stop this for her benefit.

    The final Halacha is a matter of dispute between the Rema and the Gra.

    1. Unfortunately not very learnedJuly 17, 2022 at 3:23 PM

      zichron devorim, I'm really interested in reading those sources inside, I haven't learned hilchos kesuba yet unfortunately, would you be able to provide exact mekoros, so one would be able to read the original source? Thanks!

    2. It starts with a Tosfos כתובות סג. ד"ה באומר
      See Shut Rosh 78:2
      The Shulchan Aruch is Siman 70:3. See ביאור הגר"א there.

    3. While it is pretty clear from the gemara that the ketubah terms are negotiable at least as far as black letter halachah is concerned, the standard ketubah terms have been fixed for centuries, at least for Ashkenazim. There has been huge pushback when changes have been suggested (such as the Lieberman clause).

    4. "כשם שאדם חייב במזונות אשתו - כך הוא חייב במזונות בניו ובנותיו הקטנים עד שיהיו בני שש שנים"
      The obligation exists independently of the כתובה.

  7. The issue remains, what is the Mesora? How were things done for many years? Was an individual's avodas Hashem his primary focus? Or Klal Yisroel's issues?
    You say circumstances have changed, a Jewish state means that we cannot rely on outsiders any more. That may be true, but that is certainly not a Mesorah.

    And I am not too sure things have truly changed. As long as the state is not Jewish, and its leaders do not care much for Mitzvos and Avodas Hashem, we can continue to learn and live as a minority among them. Sure, not everyone can do so, and people will always work, support themselves and support others at the same time, like they do in England, America and other places. But the core value has not changed.

    Zionism, including its most religious forms as of Rav Kook, does not claim to be Masoretic. Rav Kook himself had a dim view of precedent. It is most disingenuous to claim that the true Masora is with them, when they never even tried to keep up a Masora

    1. Writing Rav Kook out of the mesorah?

      And Israel just had its first religious Prime Minister.

    2. I didn't write him out. He wrote himself out of it. He was, by his own admission as well as volition, an innovator. Most of his innovations are not that well known, but he was not to be considered a traditionalist by any sense of the word.

    3. "He wrote himself out of it. He was, by his own admission as well as volition, an innovator."

      So all the rishonim whose works are published as "Hiddushei ha-_____" also wrote themselves out of the tradition by being innovators? Seems unlikely.

    4. Either you don't know who Rav Kook was, or you don't know what the Rishonim say, or are being deliberately obtuse.

    5. Apparently by "Masoretic", you mean "the conditions that happened to prevail in Babylon in year 5CE".

      Anyone who realizes that we do not, in fact, live in Babylon in year 5CE, is "going against the mesorah" (a term which of course is itself highly subjective).

    6. " but he was not to be considered a traditionalist by any sense of the word."

      Replace the word "any" by "most", "many" or "some" and a sane discussion can continue. Either you don't know who Rav Kook was, or you... are being deliberately obtuse.

  8. "But the very basic concept of the kesubah is completely meaningless to them and is not fulfilled by them."

    Here's a citation by maverick blogger Shaulson:
    ומכל מקום בנוגע לעניין הכתובה, לפני שנים רבות שמעתי מבן תירה אחד כדלהלן, היות ועל פי הלכה מה שקנתה אשה קנה בעלה, אם כן הרי שלמרות שהיא מביאה את הכסף, כיון שהכסף שייך לבעל א"כ נמצא שפיר שהוא מפרנס אותה
    And perhaps we could add that voting for UTJ is required by the כתובה. (That gives bachelors leeway to vote for Smotrich)

  9. Commentators avoid the crux of the problem of Charedi Rabbis pushing adult men to learn Torah rather than to earn a living. That is the economic factor. The Charedi Rabbis risk their kollels and yeshivas closed for lack of students and funding.The irrationality of those Rabbis ignoring Jewish tradition and our sages exposes those Rabbis as fraudulent. Until the fraud of the economic factor is recognized and addressed, things won't change.

  10. Hashem runs the world through
    Nature. Hashem sometimes gives you more or less then you
    expect from Nature. Man runs his life according to Nature. Otherwise he is a"Shoteh" and
    violates the Mesorah.

  11. Jonathan FeldmanJuly 17, 2022 at 5:25 PM

    This divergence of world views is debated in Talmud Bavli Brachot 35b between R' Yishmael who advocated work and Torah study and R' Shimon bar Yochai who advocated 'kulo Torah.' The gemara ends by saying many tried like RaShb'Y and it did not work. After the holocaust the gedolim of the hareidi world said that everyone should follow RaShb'Y because Torah had to be rebuilt, which was the reality at the time. That coupled with the mores of the general society going so far away from Torah values have kept the hareidi world out of the work forces and in the beit midrash. Almost eighty years later the rebuilding of Torah has been a success, but will there be a readjustment of the post-holocaust outlook?

  12. Isn't the Gemarah warning us about this approach? Rashby wanted sacrifice to learn Torah and didn't guarantee they would have parnasah. It failed! But no
    one pays attention

    1. He was supported, meagerly, but sufficiently. His hishtadlus, such as it was, consisted of sticking out his hand and picking carobs from the tree. That others tried and failed is more of a comment on them than the principle, which is obviously very lofty and not appropriate for everyone.

      In any case, how many really learn lishma? In my experience, not many.

  13. I grew up in an ultra-Orthodox community in Antwerp. We also had a family in London - ultra-Orthodox. Everyone worked and studied Torah every day for fixed hours. In Antwerp there was not one Kollel. As far as I know, this was also the case in Zurich, which is in Switzerland. So the ultra-Orthodox tradition in Antwerp, London and Zurich was, that everyone works. Today, everything has changed, but it is a religious reform. It is not a continuation of an ultra-Orthodox tradition

    1. I don't know how old you are, but there is more than one Kollel in Antwerp.
      And those who wanted to learn long term, went to Eretz Yisroel, Lakewood or Gateshead. We live in a small world, and people traveled.
      And your towns are small provincial leftovers of a great past. They were never independent, they were either the peripheries of Galicia, Germany, or Lithuania. The Masora is not determined by a small periphery of people who escaped the center for one reason or another.

    2. I'm 72. I wrote that today the situation in Europe is completely different and you are right that there are a lot of kollels in Antwerp, London and Zurich. But all this was not when I was young. All the ultra-Orthodox youth went to yeshivot to study. But got back to work aged 22-23. You invent history. Antwerp, London and Zurich were not provincial cities in terms of ultra-Orthodox Judaism in Europe but their center. Everyone worked and no one saw it as any inferiority. In the matter of Galicia. My family came from there, part, of its capital city. Some were Rabonim, Dayonim and Hazonim. The rest of the family worked and no one saw it as a defect. Another part came from Transylvania. The image is also the same. Some of my family members refused to receive money for their work in the community. This did not prevent them from being city rabbis, heads of courts, heads of yeshivas and cantors.

  14. Shimshon, Hishtadlus won't do it! Nature (G-d through Nature) requires great effort, hard work, intelligent work etc. not fake Hishtadlus. You can sacrifice but there are no miracles.Chutzpah
    to think so,
    to expect it.Basically
    you want someone else to carry you!

    1. Yaacub, I have restrained myself for quite a few days, but no longer.

      This is literally the most retarded notion I have read on this site which is laden with retardation. Who said expect from someone else? Who said someone else would carry me, or my son? Are you merely retarded, or illiterate too? I said, Hashem would provide. I did not say how. I even said, it cannot be foreseen in advance how.

      Have you learned nothing from the mahn in the midbar? That is a lesson we are to absorb deeply for all time, but most people trip up on it.

      Hishtadlus is the kli by which Hashem allows us to think, "kochi ve-otzem yadi assah". More hishtadlus in no way means more parnassa. There are times in my own life where I have to work hard for it, and times when I have to barely lift my finger up to catch it as it falls into my hand. And there are things I have done in my life where it is very clear that despite the very hard work I did that should result in more parnassa, the exact opposite happened to me.

      There are miracles, constantly. It's called Hashgacha Pratis. I experience it, constantly. Even open miracles. Chutzpa, avoda zarah even, to think your hishtadlus is anything other than a vessel.

      Intelligence is nothing more than a gift, which is often misconstrued and abused. Stupid people have the same worth as smart people. And they have parnassa from Hashem too.

  15. A Thinking TalmidJuly 18, 2022 at 2:42 AM

    Rabbi Slifkin,

    For argument's sake, given that Chareidi "Gedolim" presumably disagree with Rav Melamed's defition of "Gadlus ba'Torah," may I ask, how do you know that Rav Melamed is correct in his definition of a gadol? Do you or he have any proofs from earlier sources that Chareidim would recognize as authoritative?

    I claim no knowledge of this - did the Chofetz Chaim have these perspectives that Rav Melamed describes? OBVIOUSLY, the Chofetz Chaim was a tremendous gaon and ohev Yisrael, but did he have all these dispositions that Rav Melamed enumerates? Or would Rav Melamed claim the Chofetz Chaim wasn't a "gadol"?

    Or another question - Rav Melamed argues that Gedolim must be "handling of serious issues facing the generation, including: the attitude towards Am Yisrael in all its diversity and various levels – both religious, and non-religious." Doesn't the Rambam, a rationalist par-excellence, in הקדמה לפירוש המשנה, that the purpose of the world is for the אדם השלם? Granted, his conception of האדם השלם involved a heavy duty of metaphysics, not something Chareidim are involved with, nor the typical Dati Leumi either, but the fact remains that the Rambam believes some individuals are far more "important" in some sense than most others. Was the Rambam not a gadol?

    I certainly am inclined towards Rav Melamed's thinking, but I feel such claims require greater evidence than is being provided in these blog posts.

    1. The Chafetz Chaim was very much involved in the community and problems of his time. He died fifteen years before 1948.

    2. Gadluth baTorah according to Rabbi Melamed is what interests Rabbi Melamed. How convenient!
      Isn't this blog supposed to be about rational judaism? Doesn't rationalism oppose such towering figures and concentration of power, that the mere vocable and its common use suppose?
      Gadluth baTorah should mean scholarship in Torah and nothing else. Now maybe such gedolim should not wield such political power as they do, but the approach of Rabbi Melamed is merely to switch persons, without questioning the dubious principle.
      I've asked the question quite a few times already, but never got answers.

    3. We seem to have developed an approach that we have a Godol Hador, or Gedolim, and that nothing can be swayed without their explicit acknowledgement.

      To be honest, I haven't come across this concept while learning various שו"ת seforim written over the last 1500 years.

      This is not how these Rabbonim write or how some contemporary Poskim talk. As one Av Beis Din explained, it's not who says it, but what they say. And it's what they say that has to be evaluated in the context of the current situation that one finds oneself.

      For me, alarm bells start ringing when you here a "Psak" without any supporting Teshuvoh material.

      There is also a belief that certain Rabbonim know the answer to everything about everything. And they can give an instantaneous Psak about any aspect of Halocho, medicine, relationships and even politics. The Poskim I know are clear on managing expectations to areas of Halocho that they are familiar with and certainly do not venture out into areas (particularly in areas not covered by Halocho, like medicine) that they have no training in.

      I find it bizarre that people go to Gedolim for medical decisions; maybe we should consult them about car mechanics or AC systems as well.

    4. A Thinking TalmidJuly 18, 2022 at 6:00 PM

      Nachum - I'm curious how involved he was. And certainly, he took many "Chareidi" stances that Rav Melamed might not approve of.

      Jew Well and Richie - I suspect that Rav Melamed does not claim the same amount of authority as Chareidi gedolim, especially outside the area of halacha. At the same time, I don't believe we must totally reject the idea of Daas Torah.

    5. "Gadluth baTorah should mean scholarship in Torah and nothing else."

      So you're a chossid of Atlas, Scholem, HaLivni and lehavdl Lieberman?

    6. " Do you or he have any proofs from earlier sources that Chareidim would recognize as authoritative?"

      Rav Chaim Soloveitchik on the role of a rabbi: "‘To redress the grievances of those who are abandoned and alone, to protect the dignity of the poor, and to save the oppressed from the hands of their oppressor.’ "

      Also take a look at פרק ה of הלכות דעות. The Rambam there defines a תלמוד חכם by matters not mentioned in הלכות תלמוד תורה. It's not just about scholarship.

    7. It seems to me that the concept of The Gedolim is a largely post-Holocaust innovation heavily influenced by Chassidus.

      Not that there aren't or haven't been people who are great scholars and highly respected, but that the idea that there exists a group called The Gedolim with well-defined membership (i.e., this person is a Gadol and this other well-respected person is not) is a somewhat recent chiddush.

    8. @Ephraim
      I'm a 'chossid' of no one. Gadluth ba Torah is one thing, chasidus another one, tzidkus yet another, and so forth. It is usually true that knowledge in Torah can give insight on other things too, and that no other middah can really be acquired without it as it says: ואין בור ירא חטא. But not to everyone, and not always. I rather like the approach of Rabbi Lichtenstein to Daath Torah, that Rabbi Slifkin usually brings alongside that of Rabbi Melamed, but which is diametrically opposed to it IMO.
      And concentration of power in the hands of people who are supposed to be always right by definition, can only bring catastrophe.
      A rabbi can be many things, and most of them do not need to be 'Gedolim BaTorah' to serve their congregation well. And I don't know why you would think this opinion of Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik on rabbinate is any more related to that of Rabbi Melamed than to the one of chareidim.
      A Talmid Chacham is supposed to elevate himself in many areas according to the Talmud and Maimonides, none of which seemingly fits Rabbi Melamed's criteria of 'Gadluth BaTorah'. So who are you arguing against again?

    9. "So who are you arguing against again? "
      It could be I'm not arguing against you, and we just need to clarify terms.
      But from your comments, we can come up with at least three categories of תלמוד חכם:
      1) Torah knowledge alone
      2) Following the imperatives of the above cited Rambam (and perhaps we can include 48 קנייני תורה )
      3) The wider program advocated by R' Melamed

      You should be aware, that R' Melamed is specifically addressing the issue of authority- whom he feels obligated to follow.

      That being the case, we need not discuss what defines גדלות בתורה. Because the real issue is one of authority- whatever term you want to use. The discussion should entail what traits are required by a Torah scholar in order to be an authority in areas of life beyond the page of Gemara.
      Take for example, R' Melamed insistence that authority requires an interest in both the observant and secular segments of society. Do you disagree with that requirement? Does it not evoke the Netziv:
      וזה היה שבח האבות, שמלבד שהיו צדיקים וחסידים ואוהבי ה' באופן היותר אפשר, עוד היו "ישרים", היינו: שהתנהגו עם אומות העולם, אפילו עובדי אלילים מכוערים; מכל מקום היו עִמם באהבה, וחשו לטובתם, באשר היא קיום הבריאה. כמו שאנו רואים כמה השתטח אברהם אבינו להתפלל על סדום, אף־על־גב שהיה שנא אותם ואת מלכם תכלית שנאה עבור רשעתם, כמבואר במאמרו למלך סדום. מכל מקום חפץ בקיומם!

    10. A Thinking TalmidJuly 20, 2022 at 2:56 AM

      Ephraim - I think one can easily hold of the Netziv you mentioned but still fall far short of what Rav Melamed describes. However, I think your quote from Halakhic Man about Rav Chaim and the purpose of a rav is a good proof. Of course, to be devil's advocate, given that this quote comes from the Rav, Charaidim likely won't accept it.

    11. @Ephraim
      I don't know what you want with your 3 categories: what a talmid chacham is is not the same that what he should strive to be. But we're not discussing talmidei chachamim, we're discussing the dubious title 'Gadol BaTorah' that some people (mostly chareidis) believe gives authority in all possible areas, and infaillability.

      What Rabbi Melamed says in that sentence is twofold.
      First, he aknowledges there is such a thing as 'gedolim' whose authority cannot be questioned, and I find the idea very dangerous.

      Then he says what these people should care about in his opinion. But the list he dresses doesn't consist of subjects the charedi gedolim don't have an opinion on; they merely are areas where Rabbi Melamed happens to disagree with the 'gedolim establishment'. So in other words, to be a Gadol worthy of absolute power you need 'only' to agree with Rabbi Melamed.
      I don't see in these words from the Netsiv anything related to the question. Did anyone give Avraham Avinu absolute power?
      'Do you disagree with requirement?' It depends on whom you claim authority. I don't care that the Pope isn't interested by me, because he has no power over me.

    12. A Thinking TalmidJuly 21, 2022 at 6:25 PM

      Anonymous - My very strong hunch is that Rav Melamed does not believe one cannot "question" a "gadol." I agree that Rav Melamed believes Gedolim exist and have authority, but I highly doubt he believes it is anything near absolute authority. Rather, for Rav Melamed, the issue doesn't get off the ground because he believes these individuals are not Gedolim.

    13. @ATT
      It was me.
      It's this statement we're discussing, which Rabbi Slifkin seems very fond of, I don't understand why. So could be he didn't really mean that, after all it was merely an oral comment to the press if I'm not mistaken. But the sentence remains problematic.
      And I don't really think so. Because once you accept that 'Gedolim' are not, in fact, infaillable, there is no reason anymore to strip them of the title. You can just say: 'Yes they are 'gedolim', but I believe them to be sadly mistaken on some very important issues, which is enough to explain why I can't take their opinion seriously on those topics'. The fact that Rabbi Melamed feels he needs to redefine the term means IMO that he holds of it.

    14. I get the feeling from R Melamed's statement that he straightaway disqualifies non- and anti- zionists from being Gedolim. Next thing to consider is, will zionists now qualify? Yes, but they are on very shaky ground. In any controversy where each side accuses the other of being insensitive to Am Yisrael's true needs, i.e., should Begin have returned the Sinai, Sharon returned Gush Katif, the Gedolim of the other side become disqualified.

      In general, his definition of Gedolim being accountable, no, fully accountable, (not sure to who, the government/the people/the members of the coalition/the Orthodox/the secular/lobbyists...) is much different than the Chareidi definition of the same word. Accountability in our context is the opposite of authority. Does he grant the Gedolim one without the other? Under pressure, his notion of Gedolim seems to just fall apart.

  16. Much of this blog is plagiarism from a different blog:

  17. When two people write about the same topic there is always bound to be some overlap. I know R. Slifkin very well and his ethical and academic credentials are professional and impeccable. He has made, to my mind, one of the most important contributions to modern Judaism that the wider world has yet to discover and acknowledge: That there is a fundamental difference between mystical Judaism (which has become mainstream) and rationalist Judaism (which has largely been censored out of Judasim), both of which are just as authoratative. He is a great teacher to me and if anything, I have been inspired by his writings.

    1. Mainstream? Censoring? Endless moving goalposts, eh?
      When losing on defense, gotta keep on the offense!

  18. Shimshon, You can't against Natural means and succeed!
    You need lots of כוח ועוצם ידי
    and then G-d's help!

  19. Shimshon, When the Jews entered Eretz Yisrael miracles generally ended and they had to live according to Natural means.

  20. There is precedent for the mystical approach but tht doesn't
    mean it is authorative or acceptable.

  21. I believe the dividing line between the Charedi world view and the Dati Leumi perspective is that the former seeks to preserve a version of Judaism dating back to 19th Century Eastern Europe without regard to subsequent historical events - in particular our return to Israel - while the latter is seeking to build a Torah - true lifestyle appropriate to our people living here in the 21st Century and not beholden to the past simply because it is the past

    1. Malcolm, you clearly believe there is something new under the sun. Although I do think you present the reform...I mean, modern...attitude accurately.

  22. Shimshon, old is good new is bad!Halacha deals with new
    circumstances and there are often new חידושים.

  23. The Hasidic movement is a major change and approach.It even changed the נוסח התפילה!

  24. RNS this is an interesting post but an incorrect chiluk between the DL and Chareidi worldviews. The Torani (ie frummer) and Chardal streams within the DL world are just as passionate about Talmud Torah and keeping every detail of halacha. Rav Melamed who you oft quote would be shocked that you put him on the side of those less into learning and halacha, as would lehavdil bcl'c R Aharon Lichtenstein and virtually every other DL gadol. The belief in the centrality of Torah and Halacha is common to both. DL are just more open to, for the Torani sector: a) the State; and b) secular wisdom; and for the Chardal, just the State.

    This post denigrates the Torah focus in the DL world and the huge leaps and bounds that world has made, inspired by R Zvi Yehuda z'l, to catch up with the Chareidi world when it comes to Talmud Torah and some areas of keeping halacha.

    Aseh torascha keva is the maxim for both sectors. The differences are in opennes to the state, not in attitudes towards Torah.

  25. For the DL, learning torah is indeed of very high value. But it is less of a black hole than for some others. There’s an appreciable amount of room for torah value application and for openness, interaction and contribution with/to the world outside of the beit midrash. Not as a fallback position, rather as an ideal.

  26. "... in a state where there is Jewish sovereignty" - sorry, what state do you mean? I am not aware about any state with Jewish sovereignty. Indeed, there is some state governed by ethnical Jews, but majority of them deny The Lord worship, deny Tora and defile Shabbat, therefore they shall be concerned as non-Jews.
    You look into the forest and overlook the fence surrounding it :-)

    Another issue. Actually DL have their own kollel avrechim that live on expense of others and many Charedim work. The difference lays in proportion. DL put less value on Tora, that's why their percentage of avrechim is less.
    I am not familiar with too much DL people who intendedly refuse to learn Tora for profit and work yet still learn. They are, but they are miserable minority. The vast is either learn but don't work (avrechim) or work but do not learn (they are the absolute most). In the same time I am familiar with some Charedi people who intendedly refuse to learn Tora for profit and work yet still learn, and they are miserable minority in their respective communities, too.

  27. I don't think you got to the crux of the haredi viewpoint Rabbi Slifkin.

    Chazal instituted loads of Drabbonons in order to ensure we kept Torah and mitzvos and stayed Jewish throughout the Galus. Many of them were to prevent assimilation. Laws like bishul akum, stam yeynum etc. Those laws worked and they kept us Jewish for well over a thousand years, wherever we lived throughout the world. Only in Europe in the late nineteenth century, did they no longer work any more due to the enlightenment, haskalla etc. But these laws also made life much more difficult. Also according to many who were against Chazal, all these took a lot of the spirituality out of Judaism and made it too rigid.

    We know from professional large surveys conducted from within the national religious camp:
    that the drop out rate for national religious sector to either masorti or chiloni is at about 40%. For those over 50 its even higher at 51.6%. By the dati torani it is 22%. For chareidim, the same survey only shows 3% becoming masorti or chiloni!

    The Chareidim are just continuing to ensure that their people and their children continue to stay frum. That's whats the most important to them because according to Rabbinic Judaism this world is only very short compared to Olam Haba which is eternal and Olam Haba will be lost to those who don't keep Shabbos, Pesach, Yom Kippur, Emuna etc. All the things that they do that you complain about on this blog, is for that purpose. They are very successful, just like Chazal were. Their drop out rate is less than a sixth of the national religious sector.

    Since the times of haskalla, reform etc the laws of Chazal alone are not enough anymore. Also in Israel there are many other enticements like the non-dati lifestyle, who seem to live a carefree beach life, dress in as little as they want and have no religious restrictions or laws or religious guilt. They are way more enticing than non-Jewish christians or muslims where the Jews were in galus previously.

    All the things that non haredi, dati people do like wearing regular clothes, listening to non-dati music, watching TV, allowing non-religious kids in their schools, serving in the army, going to chiloni universities and many other things, lead to this massive disparity.

    In the chareidi worldview their kids staying frum is infinitely more important than them being comfortable financially, contributing to society, supporting their wives financially, sharing the burden of military service and everything else you complain about in this blog. Those things might be ideals and mitzvos but they are not the fundamentals like Emuna, Shabbos, Pesach, Yom Kippur etc. If the Chasam Sofer were alive today he would be the last person saying that haredim shouldn't stay in learning.

    They are much less worried about the theoretical "inevitable catastrophic results" that you are talking about because whatever could happen, it is not nearly as catastrophic to them compared to the prospect of half their kids leaving the derech right now, like has been going on in the national religious sector for the last 70 years. Or another disaster like what happened in Europe where much more than 50% of Jews left observance.

  28. The Haskala was chareidi Jews
    leaving religious observance. The
    Chareidi approach was not successful! On the whole they were not too successful, certainly
    not in the long-term. All those
    children from Chareidi families
    left religious obsr

  29. The Jews influenced by the Haskalah were Chareidi. Obviously the Chareidi approach
    did not work. In the U.S. the overwhelming majority of the children of Chareidi families
    became non- religious!
    Even after establishing
    Torah Umesorah schools!

    1. Well they were successful in surviving for over a thousand years. Then with haskala they faltered for 100 or so years and then they made some changes and are now successful again. The national religious stayed the same and are therefore less successful, in this regard at least.


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