How Can You Look Me In The Eye?
A full-page advertisement for the Adopt-a-Kollel organization presents a letter from the director with a heart-wrenching plea for help. "People don't have food. Literally. Children go hungry." The situation is awful.
And then the director asks: "How can you look a Rosh Kollel in the eyes when he says he has 12 children at home and cannot feed them breakfast?"
I must confess that I find the structure of this question deeply disturbing.
How can we look him in the eyes?!
This is a person who is the pinnacle of success in charedi society - a Rosh Kollel. And he can't even provide his children with food! But he's not seeking work that pays a wage, and probably doesn't have the education to get a decent job anyway. Instead, he's carrying on in his failed occupation. And, to make things twelve times worse, he is doubtless bringing up his twelve children in exactly the same failed way - without any secular education, and relentlessly taught that they should go to kollel rather than seek training and employment.
How can he look us in the eyes?! How can others be asked to fulfill his basic needs, when he is not taking the most basic steps to stop making this problem catastrophically worse?
I would gladly contribute generously to help someone who recognizes that this approach is wrong, and who is seeking employment, and more importantly who is raising his children on a path of education and employment. But how does it help to perpetuate a situation that is going to get twelve times worse with each generation?
The letter talks about the tragedy of kollels closing. But isn't that exactly what needs to happen? It's the proliferation of kollels that is causing this ever-worsening humanitarian disaster!
The letter shouts that "There must be a paradigm shift here in America and around the world!"
I fully agree. But I think that we're talking about a different kind of paradigm shift. If we seriously care about the future of our children, that's what it's going to take.