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Perpetuating Classical Judaism (updated)
Rabbi Avi Shafran has a track record for getting things exactly backwards. I'm not just talking about his seeing Bernie Madoff as more worthy of admiration than Captain Sully. In the past, he's claimed that the scientific community has a greater problem than the charedi community with regard to a lack of critical thinking. And he's claimed that abuse is less prevalent in the Orthodox community, citing a Gemara that indicates precisely the opposite. In his latest article on Cross-Currents, he does it again.
His topic is defending the charedi kollel system against the governmental and popular plan to encourage/force people to work. He presents an astonishing parable for people in kollel: a single mother named Cindy, working at a low-income job from home, and receiving government support, so that she can mother her children.
The analogy fails on several grounds. Here's some just off the top of my head:
1. Cindy's situation is unplanned, unwanted, unfortunate, and she hopes to get out of it one day - and there's no reason why she shouldn't. She is not part of a community that plans, desires, and idealizes such a situation for everyone, and makes it very difficult to get out of it.
2. Motherhood is something valued by everyone. Mass kollel is not. (It's not being a religious Jew that we're discussing - plenty of people who work are also religious Jews.)
3. Cindy is presumably appreciative for the aid. She's not part of a movement that disparages the government, refuses to serve in the army even in times of great national danger, and refuses to display any gratitude to those who defend her and those who financially support her.
4. Cindy is raising her children to be productive citizens, not to also require welfare.
But I was most taken aback by a single key sentence in the article, where Rabbi Shafran spells out why the government, and ultimately the other citizens of Israel, should support the charedi mass-kollel lifestyle:
And a country that calls itself the Jewish one, it can well be argued, has a special responsibility to underwrite the portion of its populace that is willfully destitute because of its dedication to perpetuating classical Judaism.
The charedi community is not willfully destitute because of its dedication to perpetuating classical Judaism. In classical Judaism - both in sources in the Gemara and Rishonim, and in actual Jewish history - people worked to support their families. Following the directives of Chazal, people raised their children with the skills, the desire and the motivation to work for a living. There was no system of mass kollel.
The charedi community is not willfully destitute because of its dedication to perpetuating classical Judaism. It is willfully destitute because of its dedication to perverting classical Judaism.
(On a lighter note, check out this video that I took of foxes outside my house!)