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Pigs In Shtreimels
Earlier today there was a gigantic rally at the Jerusalem Arena against "pigs in shtreimels."
The event, under the auspices of the charedi Gedolei Torah, was for Beis Yaakov girls. The purpose was to dissuade them from attending any of the numerous academic higher education programs for charedim that have sprung up in recent years, such as Machon Tal, Adina Bar-Shalom's Charedi College of Jerusalem (soon closing due to lack of enrollment), Strauss Campus Afikei Lomda, Mivchar, and so on. (There is currently a furor raging over funding of 200,000 shekels for this event that was promised from the Jerusalem Municipality.)
Adina Bar Shalom (a pig in a shtreimel?) with her fatherRav Baruch Shapira introduced the program by relating a conversation that he had with Rav Steinman about the event. Rav Steinman said, "Charedi academic programs?! It's like a pig in a shtreimel!"
(Note that Rav Steinman spoke down the road from my home a few years ago, and stated that there is no relationship between secular education and income.)
Rav Chaim Kanievsky sent a message: that he blesses anyone who studies only in Beis Yaakov and not in an academic program, that they will have easy and abundant parnasah.
Rav Gershon Edelstein stressed that parnasah is entirely in the hands of Heaven and is determined on Rosh HaShanah by one's spiritual merits. Accordingly, he said, those girls who go to Beis Yaakov will receive parnasah, good shidduchim, and everything else that they need, whereas girls who leave that framework will not be successful at this. (One cannot help but wonder how he could say something that is so clearly factually incorrect; indeed, if it was true that Beis Yaakov graduates make a parnasah and those who go to college do not, then there would be no need for such a rally in the first place!)
Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein (author of the popular Veha'arev Na/ What If series) gave a Torah insight: Why did Rachel Imeinu sit on Lavan's idols rather than burn them? He explained that the point was to disparage them, to show that the "wisdom of other nations" has nothing to offer us. (See this post from Rabbi Josh Waxman about Rav Zilberstein's position that Jews and non-Jews have different numbers of teeth.) We must teach our daughters, he said, that a Jewish home that is clean of any hint of foreign wisdom, and teaches only Torah, will never be harmed.
Rabbi Moshe Hillel Hirsch of Slabodka Yeshivah delivered a much more honest presentation. He stated frankly that modern charedi society puts people in a difficult position - the women do not earn enough of a salary to support the family and the husband is in kollel. He noted that there is talk of funding coming from wealthy donors in America, but admitted that there is no good solution. However, he said, the reason why it is nevertheless forbidden to attend academic program is because of the deleterious effect that this has on one's spiritual life.
There is no question that Rabbi Hirsch is correct. Once a person steps out of the daled amos of the yeshivah or Beis Yaakov, they are exposed to all kinds of influences and ideas that run contrary to charedi and Torah values. I don't understand how there are people that deny this.
On the other hand, im ein kemach, ein Torah. We have to earn money, work, and build up society. If charedim are going to radically diverge from tradition by sending everyone to kollel, then the women have to shoulder the workload of both partners (while also giving birth and raising children). And it's just not possible for charedi society to accomplish that if everyone only attends Beis Yaakov. As Rabbi Hirsch acknowledged, what Rav Edelstein said is just not true.
Rabbi Hirsch said that the spiritual price is too great to pay, and charedim must consign themselves to ever-worsening economic ruin. Others will disagree with that judgment. There's always risks and dangers in life. It's dangerous to fight in a war, but we still need soldiers. And it's dangerous to go to college, but we still need to provide for our families and build up society.
These are difficult decisions for young women to make. They are certainly unlikely to choose academic programs when the people that they are told to revere as Gedolei Yisroel tell them that if they do so, they will not attain parnasah or good shidduchim. I am always amazed at how people who would very much want their children to obtain academic qualifications nevertheless send their children to institutions which teach them to revere the Charedi leadership as their Gedolim. And then they are surprised and dismayed when their children and grandchildren don't get an academic education and can't support themselves!
(See too this post: "Gedolei Yisroel Insist On Economic Ruin For Charedim, All Israel")