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Holy Men with Magic Chickens
In the previous post, Pigs In Shtreimels, I reported about the Gedolim's rally for Beis Yaakov girls to dissuade them from attending charedi colleges. Several of the speakers assured the girls that by not going to college, they would be blessed with parnasah, whereas by going to college, they would not receive blessing. Rav Steinman described charedi colleges as being comparable to pigs in shtreimels; I wonder what the appropriate metaphor is for a rabbinic leader who makes false promises about parnasah? My good friend Rabbi David Bar-Cohn posted the following at Truth And Peace:
A person comes to seek the counsel of an esteemed rabbinic leader:
"Rabbi, a holy man in our community has been selling chickens. They seem to be much scrawnier than regular chickens, but the holy man says that they are special. He guarantees that if you buy one of his chickens, it will lay enough eggs to feed your entire household. He also says that it will only work if you do not purchase any other food, because that shows a lack of faith. In fact, he warns that if you do purchase other food, or worse, if you don't buy one of his chickens, your family will be be condemned to poverty.
"People are buying these scrawny chickens in droves. Some because they believe the holy man's promise. Others out of fear, because they don't want to be ostracized by their friends, neighbors, and community if they are seen bringing additional food into their homes. This man also targets children, indoctrinating them to believe that they must buy these chickens or face ruin in their future lives.
"And the chickens? It appears that they're just scrawny chickens. The people who bought them found that they lay no more than 1 to 2 eggs a day, not nearly enough to feed a household. Children regularly go to bed hungry. Many are thin and malnourished. Families are suffering. Rabbi, what are we to do?"
Shocked and incensed, the Rabbi answers:
"This is insanity, a travesty! When a person is brought to heavenly judgment, the first question they ask him is: Did you deal faithfully and honestly with people? Were you trustworthy in your business dealings? By making such empty guarantees, and convincing a whole community to buy into it, indeed scaring them to buy into it, this man is guilty of grave transgressions! He owes every one of these families every cent of what he guaranteed and failed to deliver, five times over. Of course he can't possibly pay them all back. Nor can he compensate them for their great suffering. Who is this 'holy man'?"
"Rabbi," says the visitor, "that man is you! The single chicken per household is your promise of adequate parnasah from a single earner, a woman and mother with nothing more than a Beis Yaakov education, which you've warned us not to supplement. You've told the men not to depart from their learning, and even the women you've forbidden from obtaining an education that would enable them to bring in enough money to support the family. You guaranteed us great abundance, and yet many of us can scarcely put food on the table, must rely on tzedakah to live. Some accept their poverty as a badge of faith. But many are scared to do anything different, not wanting to be seen as lesser in the eyes of their neighbors, or their own children, who they're also worried about marrying off. Others have lived this way their whole lives and simply lack the skills and wherewithal to do anything different. Rabbi, you made this guarantee to us, and now I come to you on behalf of the community to ask you to cover that guarantee. Please, pay us the money you've promised we would have. And one more thing. I beg you, please stop selling us these chickens."
Holy men with magic chickens? I'd rather have pigs in shtreimels.