What's Wrong If Someone Wants To Support People In Kollel?
In an earlier post, we explored one aspect of the propriety/ impropriety of kollel from the perspective of the person in kollel. There are many other aspects to be examined, but in this post, I'd like to switch to the perspective of a prospective donor. Supposing someone wants to fund people in kollel - is there anything wrong with that? Surely not, argued a commentator by the name of Warren, in a response to an earlier post:
I agree that kollel for the masses is not viable in the long term and there will come a breaking point when more bnei Torah will have to go out and join the workforce.
But if there are donors whom are happy to support those in full time learning, well frankly why not?
No one is asking you to support them, but people like myself who have matured and think wisely about their money, have come to the conclusion that supporting an avreich bent over a ketzos is frankly the best investment a jew can make.
Two other commentators offered excellent responses. First was AHG:
1. We disagree with your conclusion. It's a perversion of Torah-true Judaism and are duty-bound to speak out against it. (In the same vein that Agudah feels that need to speak out against the left wing Orthodox groups.)
2. Rabbi Slifkin, while perhaps addressing the entire kollel system, probably has mostly in mind his situation in Israel where avreichim in kollel are largely funded by taxpayer subsidies. If the most recent election is any indication, the donors have spoken and they are not pleased.
3. As you already have acknowledged, those who want to sit and learn will, (or have already, IMO) surpass what willing and able donors like yourself will happily support.
4. Even if there was sufficient wealth to go around, there is still a problem with a certain group deciding it's their entitlement and way of life.
5. As long as it's not personal to you, we're entitled to have our conversation, analyzing the system, and drawing our own conclusion about what are worthwhile causes in a frum community. You don't have to agree with our conclusions, but don't dissuade us from making our own analysis.
Second was "Lion of Israel":
Warren - Your sentiments are understandable. However, please remember that by supporting the Kollel guy:
1 - You're consigning his children to poverty, especially if the Kollel guy educates his children to the same ideal.
2 - Said Kollel guy will not be paying taxes, meaning, among other things, that he will be taking health insurance money from the government, w/o having contributed to the fund from which the money is taken. Because he is taking from but not contributing to the pot, certain medicines will not be available to sick people, many of whom are contributing to that pot.
3 - Said Kollel guy will need financial help from his parents, in the event that any unexpected expenses come up (and they will). This often means less help from his parents for his siblings.
4 - Said Kollel guy will not be able to help his siblings deal with their parents, when they reach old age. He will apologetically say that he just doesn't have that kind of money.
And on and on.
I'm not saying that everyone needs to spend their lives making as much money as they can. But there's a point where the decision to be "mistapek b'muat" makes someone a real burden on his family and on society.
To all the above, I would like to add the following (and my comments are primarily oriented towards the setup in Israel; I understand that in the US, it may be somewhat different). Rambam says that the highest form of charity is to enable someone to become independent. Supporting the charedi kollel system is the exact opposite - preventing people from ever being able to be independent.
The majority of people in the kollel system today are not on track to become Torah leaders and educators. When you support a charedi man in kollel, it's not something that can be simply ended at some point, with the merit points waiting in Olam HaBa. There are long-term consequences to what you have done. By supporting him, you have enabled him to advance in years while lessening his ability to be employed. Furthermore, by supporting the charedi mass-kollel fantasy, you have effectively encouraged him to ignore Chazal's teachings and to bring up his children without the knowledge, qualifications or desire to work for a living.
As Warren correctly acknowledges, kollel for the masses is not viable in the long term and there will come a breaking point when more bnei Torah will have to go out and join the workforce. But that breaking point is extremely painful and causes tremendous problems. Men in their forties who are desperate to make a living but are unemployable, because they never got an education or held a job; people who are having heart attacks because they can't afford to marry off their children (each of whom needs an apartment already paid for in order to get a shidduch); etc., etc. This is a time-bomb, and the longer it's put off, the harsher the damage that it causes.
If someone wants to support advanced Torah study, there are ways to do that without running into these problems. You can support Torah MiTziyon kollels, or Kollel Elyon - in which you are not harming the candidates' future employment prospects, nor those of their children. But to support the charedi kollel system is not a personal choice with no harmful effects. Rather than being "the best investment a Jew can make," it's something with drastic and cruel long-term consequences - on society at large, and on kollel families in particular.