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The Charedi Tragedy of Ignoring Chazal
The following video, which tells the tragic story of the crushing poverty facing the charedi community in Israel, was shown at the Agudas Yisrael convention:
The video describes the standard charedi kollel family as having a total income of 5100 shekels a month, which is "not nearly enough to live off." As a result, we are told, "they must rely on chesed organizations for necessary expenses." And they often cannot afford to provide food, medical care or basic necessities for their large families.
The video indicates that this is all the fault of the government. Dov Krulwich explains why this is incorrect: "The cuts in government funding didn’t cause the unsustainability; the unsustainability led to the cuts in government funding. The government simply didn’t have enough money, and it cut almost everything, including critical army training and lots more, and raised sales tax (VAT), and cut child subsidies for all citizens, and more. The numbers of people collecting charity door-to-door had skyrocketed before the government cuts. The government cuts were an attempt to bring a solution by motivating chadorim and yeshivos to give the bare minimum of secular studies, as is done in America." When a large and rapidly growing sector of the population has only half the employment rate of the rest of the population, of course this is going to harm the economy. Cuts in funding are the inevitable result.
It is astonishing that a problem so grave has its cause and solution staring at them in the face, and yet they refuse to acknowledge it - even though they are ignoring Chazal's explicit directives.
The men need to WORK!!!
The video describes a typical man in kollel as "earning" 1200 NIS a month. But he doesn't "earn" it - he is given it as charity. He is accumulating Torah knowledge for himself, but he does not contribute a product or service to society. And even if you're going to follow the view of some recent mystically-oriented Acharonim and claim that the person is contributing spiritual energy to the country, it is clearly hopelessly inadequate for supporting one's family. Such people, if they cannot get by, need to leave kollel and go to work. (In fact, according to the Rishonim, they should leave kollel and go to work even if they can get by in kollel.)
A man has to work to support his family! There are countless sources in Chazal to that effect. “A person should hire himself out for alien work rather than requiring assistance from others”; “The man who is self-sufficient is greater than the one who fears Heaven”; etc., etc. It's even written in the kesubah. A rabbi from an outreach kollel wrote to me recently with harsh criticism of my Jerusalem Post articles, deploring the way that I use "the same old quotes from Rambam and Pirke Avos that the enemies of Torah have been quoting ad nauseum." It's extraordinary that people in the charedi world are so derisive and dismissive towards the teachings of Chazal and Rishonim. And then when they suffer the tragic results of ignoring Chazal, they blame everyone except themselves!
In an attempt to address those who would point out the obvious word WORK, one person in the video says that "even a man who works cannot pay for basic needs." Well, first of all, obviously someone who earns several thousand shekels a month is going to be in a much better situation than someone who receives 1200 shekels a month. Second, a good job, which enables a person to be fully self-sufficient, usually requires education and credentials - a high-school diploma, a college degree, and work experience. This is why Chazal said that a person is required to teach his child a profession. A profession is not something that you can rely on picking up on the spot when you're in your thirties. It requires an education from childhood.
Rabbi Gil Student points out: "What have we created with the kollel system and lack of secular studies? The only surprise is that anyone is surprised at this economic collapse of this unsustainable system. The long-term answer is not charity or government assistance because that, too, will eventually collapse. The answer is teaching the skills necessary to acquire well-paying jobs and creating a social environment where parents are applauded for providing for their children." To this I would add that there needs to be a social environment where parents are encouraged to fulfill their obligation to teach their children both the knowledge and the values necessary for them to be self-sufficient.
In the video, the mayor of Kiryat Sefer says that "we need a lot of rachamei shamayim and a lot of help to survive." No. That is only going to delay the effects of the problem, which will be even greater further down the line. What you need is to start listening to Chazal.
It's tragic that whereas many charedi yeshivah high schools in the US can provide standard secular education and high-school diplomas, yeshivah ketanos in Israel do not, because "the Gedolim say not to." Who are you going to follow - the Gedolim, who (as shown in this video) have failed Klal Yisroel, or Chazal?