Who Else Should Help Desperate Kollel Families?
There are all kinds of charity campaigns for kollel families in desperate financial distress. Letters and appeals are sent out to Jews across the spectrum. But there's one group of Jews that doesn't seem to be asked to help these families.
Here's a letter that ought to be sent to all kollel families that receive help for being in severe financial difficulties:
"Rabbosay, there's a very serious poverty problem with countless kollel families. In response, there are many families around the world that contribute funds. This mitzvah, of helping people in need, is not one that only takes place when they give their credit card number. Rather, it's a mitzvah that they prepare for all the time, when they are working to earn the money that enables them to help those that need it.
"Rabbosay, we need more people to participate in this mitzvah. Specifically, we need YOU. For the existing donors, while they have a mitzvah to give tzedakah, they can choose to help your families, or they can choose to give to other causes. But for you, it's a mitzvah to help your families specifically. Each of you has a responsibility to help your own families with their basic needs. That responsibility, as delineated in the kesubah, is fulfilled by working. As Chazal say, it is better for a person to engage in even a lowly trade rather than casting themselves on others for support.
"Now, it's not easy to find work, especially for people who lack training and experience. But there are organizations which will help you do so, or which will provide you with the opportunity and means to pursue a job training program. There is Keren Kemach, there is Mafteach, there is Lemaan Achai, there are more.
"Leaving kollel is a very hard decision to make. But if one's family is not getting their needs met, then it's a straightforward requirement. And it's also crucial to think about your childrens' futures. If each of the families that we help has an average of eight children, who are being raised to follow the same path, and an average of at least six out of eight of these children will actually do so, then the problem will be at least six times worse in the next generation. What are we going to do about that?"
I showed this letter to some charitable friends who give money to help desperate people in kollel, and asked them what they thought about it. One said that it's not his place to tell people what to do with their lives, it's only his role to help them in difficult times. Another said that it's just futile.
Maybe they are right. But personally I think that it's everyone's responsibility to do what they can to motivate people to make the right decisions in life, especially when their bad choices are harming other people. And when you're giving people money, you have the chance to get their attention.
Furthermore, I think that there's even a strong case for saying that those who decide to make the right choice and take on their responsibilities will receive more financial aid. Perhaps even for saying that those who point-blank refuse to do anything themselves will not receive any aid beyond food coupons. Certainly Chazal and the Rishonim had a very dim view of people who see no reason to support themselves and not to live off charity.
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