Friday, December 12, 2008

Off Center: Limping on our Thighs (or: Harry's [Sciatic] Nerve)

Once again, I must take umbrage with a popular blog that calls itself Emes Ve-Emuna. I am now referring to a more recent post from December 5 entitled, What Happened to Jonathan? There is actually an even earlier post that I wish to comment about but this one relates to this past week's parsha (VaYishlach - I was hoping to get this posted before Shabbos) so it gets precedence.

In this post, Harry critiques a Jonathan Rosenblum article that was written for Mishpacha and carried in Cross-Currents. The article is an overview of a number of unusual hardships that are currently facing the Jewish nation. Jonathan devotes one paragraph to the economic meltdown and how it is taking a severe toll upon the learning sector.

There were two parts of Jonathan's article that fell into Harry's net. One was that single paragraph that I just mentioned. I will discuss this shortly. Before this part, Harry deals with a reported statement from R. Elyashiv, shlita on the severity of danger. Harry took exception to the tone that seems to confer upon RYSE the status of a Navi.

First Harry sets the record straight:

Rav Elyashiv is not a Navi. That is impossible since mankind lost that ability over two thousand years ago. Nor does he have Ruach HaKodesh.

That's cool, nowhere in R'JR's article was there such a claim. Now Harry goes on:

We may indeed need to worry about a coming Armageddon, but not becase it is Rav Elyashiv’s prediction. And we certainly need not pray about what he meant!

Believe it or not, I totally agree with Harry. He is absolutely right with his first line. We do need to worry about a coming Armegeddon and, indeed, not because it is Rav Elyashiv's prediction. It is because it is Yitzchok Avinu's prediction! I will explain momentarily.

Likewise, Harry is absolutely right with his second line, as well. It won't help to pray about what he meant. That is because it is absolutely clear what he meant.

You see, RYSE is not a Navi or the son of a Navi. And he does not need Ruach HaKodesh (though I am sure he has more than you or me). He is just a true chareidi that knows how to learn chumash – with the midrashim and commentaries.

RYSE was merely stating the words of the Minchas Shai on the Midrash Rabbah. He knows that when Yitzchok felt Yaakov's hands he exclaimed:

כב ויגש יעקב אל יצחק אביו וימשהו ויאמר הקל קול יעקב והידים ידי עשו

The well known Midrash Rabbah (Breishis 65:20) says:

When the voice of Yaakov is to be found in the Synagogues and study halls, there will not be "hands of Eisav". But, if not, there will be hands of Eisav.
The Minchas Shai elaborates:

Why is the first word קל missing the vav? So that you should read it like this: הקל קול יעקב when the voice of Yaakov in the shuls and Yeshivos is feeble (קל ) THEN the hands will be those of Eisav.

Rav Elyashiv, Shlita is merely telling us that the voices in the Beis Midrash are much more feeble than they should be (as was the case before WWII). Therefore, Yitzchak Avinu warns us that we are vulnerable to the hands of Eisav.

We don't need to pray about what Rav Elyashiv meant. We just need to pray!!

I hope I cleared this up.

The second part of Jonathan's article that Harry found disturbing was his paragraph on how the economic crisis is endangering the Torah community in Israel. Of the numerous issues, R'JR focused on a seemingly spiteful Livni policy to further reduce the already paltry government assistance that is allotted to Chareidi education.

Now, I have a mouthful to say about what this really means (I think Harry misread the paragraph) but I don't want to digress. Harry does. He wonders why Jonathan does not want to "admit" the real problem:

The system is broken!

Here again I agree with Harry (I don't know why I am suddenly being so agreeable). The system is broken. Though I may not see eye to eye as to exactly what is broken about it. This is because, before we determine that the system is broken we have to be clear about:
How is the system supposed to work?

Now, Harry calls himself a Centrist which means "Good G-d fearing Jew who is not chareidi". I call these people NCOJs (Non-Chareidi Orthodox Jews). Now, what Harry needs to admit is that there is a major difference in philosophy between these two camps.

Centrists such as Harry believe that Jewish society is meant to be comprised of 100% financially independent people. They understand תורה עם דרך ארץ (TIDE) to mean that it must apply to each individual. In other words, every Jew should be learned but only as learned as he can personally afford to be. If he can't personally earn what he needs to subsist on, he has no business spending all his time learning. It is not good for society that anybody should not be independent. Of course, this position is butressed by the Rambam in Hilchos Talmud Torah 3:10.

This is the NCOJ system.

The chareidim believe very strongly in an interdependent system. There is a learning class and working class within the community, and the working class helps support the learning class. The learning class should not need to become fully self sufficient, and should not be looking for ways to do it, particularly if it will compromise the quality of their learning. We also believe in TIDE but we understand it as a community value and not an individual one. The Torah and Derech Eretz do not have to be realized in the same person (although it's OK if it is). One person specializes in Torah and another in Derech Eretz. This is how Avos 2:4 conforms with Avos 3:6. As for the Ramabam in Hilchos TT 3:10, we understand it to mean that a person may not thrust himself upon the community and rely on charity reserved for the poor. It does not mean that he may not draw legitimate income from willing Torah benefactors as the Rambam himself did for part of his life.

Chareidim believe that society is meant to be interdependent. That's what G-d wants and that's why He wrote (Devarim 15:11): כי לא יחדל אביון מקרב הארץ . G-d didn't need to make any poor people . But he did. Why? So that everyone else can be מתקן themselves by helping them. He also made the Torah world to be dependent on the working class. Why? So that the working class can have a share in the achievements of the full time learners. Zevulun understood this and so he established the quintessential interdependent "you-wash-my-back-I'll-wash-yours" system. And he was so praised for this that he is blessed before his older brother.

We believe that there is supposed to be a full scale learning class and a working class. And within chareidi society, it exists. We also believe that this learning class should not be for the select few but for anybody who can live up to it. Anybody. The more the merrier. We don't believe that you need 100 Baalei Batim for every kollel guy. If there would be 99 kollel guys and one baal habayis – that should be enough. Because the Torah study brings the bracha to the baal habayis.

Vayikra 26:3 says that the more Torah that we support, the more material wealth we will have. This benefits everybody. It is the same concept of עשר תעשר - עשר בשביל להתעשר give your money away to become richer. In this way, both the baal habayis and the עני will have. I wrote about this at length in an earlier post entitled G-d's Pyramid Scheme. Hence, if somebody is truly learning there is no reason to say "Enough – get out there already!" What for? Who will gain?

So the way the system is supposed to work is that we should try to encourage as many Kollel people as possible and shovel in the money. In this way, the working class will be successful and become wealthy. As I wrote once in a blog comment - don't invest in IBM, invest in BMG (and IDT). Much higher returns.

It's all right there - in VaYikra 26:3.

And, it's guaranteed to work.

So---what went wrong?

What went wrong is that there were not enough people volunteering for the Zevulun job. Oh, they were plenty willing to take all that wealth, but just not anxious enough to channel it to the proper destination. And so, G-d says:

"If the working class Jewish people are not so crazy about supporting Kollel guys who will study and teach My Torah, what do I need them to be wealthy for? If all of Klal Yisroel is going to yell at Yissachar 'Get to work!!' like Harry Maryles does, what do I need Zevuluns for?"

So, maybe the problem isn't with the system. It's just that people like Harry don't know how the system is supposed to work. That's what I think and that's what R' Shimon bar Yochai thinks (Brochos 35b). And I have a hunch that this is what Jonathan Rosenblum thinks, as well. The "system" is fine. It's just that nobody was really reading the User Guide as to how to make it work.

We are the ones who are broken.

This said, I must turn my attention to some of the discussion that appeared in the comments of that Emes V'emunah post. particularly this one:

A group of Roshei Yeshivah from Bnei Brak went to meet Rav Herschel Schechter last week in order to beg him to help them raise $12 million for the kollels. Rav Shachter said, let the guys go out and get jobs! They said, we've had siyata d'Shmaya for 25 years, we're not going to give up now. Rav Schachter said, But this was a time-bomb that was bound to self-destruct eventually!

Rick 12.07.08 - 5:00 am

I truly hope that this post was a chunk of unabashed motzi-shem-ra. I am thoroughly ashamed at what I saw quoted in the comments in the name of Rabbi Hershel Schachter. The Kollel system a time bomb? Is the Yissachar Zevulun arrangement a time bomb? Is אם בחקתי תלכו a time bomb? Why can't it go on forever?

Is there not enough money for the learning sector? Does R' Hershel Schachter think that G-d cannot create as many Reichmans and Gutnicks and Wolfsons and Dunners and Rothschilds and Tannenbaums and Pluzceniks and Reicehenbachs and Esformises (and Rubashkinses) as HE wants?

התקצר יד השם?

Trust me, this is easier for G-d than krias yam suf (and solving the Shidduch crisis).

A time bomb? Ribbono Shel Olam!!! Does he follow the same Torah that I do? Does his Pirkei Avos not contain Mishna 3:6 (just for starters); does his Shas not include Barachos 35b, Sanhedrin 94b (story of Chizkiya HaMelech), Menachos 99b, Avodah Zara 2a?

Or do they skip the Aggadita in YU?

Does he not support Rashi and Toras Kohanim on VaYikra 26:3? There, Rashi seems to maintain that the brachos of Parshas Bechukosai (of material wealth) will only come with ameilus b'Torah.

What do I hear? "There are too many Yissachars!"

Chizkiya HaMelech didn't think so (Sanhedrin 94b). And his perspective on Talmud Torah explains why the 10 Tribes are lost...and we aren't.

What else do I hear? "If everybody was a Yissachar who would provide society with goods and services?"

Relax. Rabi Shimon bar Yochai handles this problem in Brachos 35b.

To repeat, the "system" is an interdependent Yissachar-Zevulun system. And, indeed it is broken. Doubtless, there are grounds to castigate the Yissachar side for not totally immersing themselves in Torah L'Shma and not being worthy of Zevulun's support. But part of Zevulun's job should be to make sure there are as many tuchuses filling the Beis Midrash chairs as possible. This is what will keep Zevulun's paycheck coming and his stock portfolio up.

This is what's really broken. But Harry Maryles has never admitted that. And he never will.

Still, we cannot say that this is unexpected. That is because it say in this (last) week's parsha (Breishis 32:25,26):

ויותר יעקב לבדו ויאבק איש עמו עד עלות השחר: וירא כי לא יכל לו ויגע בכף ירכו ותקע כף ירך יעקב בהאבקו עמו:
And Yaakov remained alone and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. And he saw that he cannot overpower him and so he made contact with the ball of his thigh and he dislocated the ball of his thigh as he wrestled with him.

Many commentators (see Oznayim L'Torah, ad loc.) explain this strange episode based on a well known Zohar (Breishis 171:1) as a preview of the destiny of the Jewish people. Such that, we are destined to wrestle with the forces of Eisav for the entire "night", i.e., for the duration of our long exile. Eisav will try with all his might to destroy us by weakening the "voice of Yaakov" in the synagogues and yeshivos. He knows the Midrash Rabba and Minchas Shai better than most of us.

But, we will prevail because the learning class will refuse to quit learning. Finally, as the "day" (i.e., redemption) is about to break, he will try one last desparate ploy - he will will turn his attention toward those who support learning, and he will "dislocate" the support system of the learning class and thus try to close down the Yeshivos. But Yaakov will continue the fight even on a "dislocated" thigh. (Note that Oznayim L'Torah wrote this about 50 years ago!)

And so, Harry Maryles and Rabbi Hershel Schachter, I think you are wrong. It is not the "system" that is broken. Perhaps Bernie Madoff's pyramid scheme doesn't work, but G-d's sure does.

So, what's broken?

It's Yaakov's thigh.


Anonymous said...

The problem is that too many Zevulun's think they are Yissachars, while the Rebbeim push the majority of the community into the Yissachar camp, where they shouldn't be.

sm said...

Yechezkel, I think you have a very good point about some working and some learning, and the ones that work and support them, also get the merit.
I think people have to know for themselves which type they are. Someone might try to tell them one way or another, but a person should really think about for himself

Baruch said...

And so, Harry Maryles and Rabbi Hershel Schachter, I think you are wrong.
I see I'm in good company. :p

By the by Reb Yechezkel, it's Rabbi Harry Maryles -- he received smicha from R' Aaron Soloveitchik in 1972. Just 'cause we're in the J-blogosphere and R' Maryles isn't particular about his kavod doesn't mean we shouldn't address him with the proper respect. Also, in consonance with the way you address rabbanim like R' Asher Weiss, R' Rabinowitz, R' Noigershall, and R' Leff (on p. 23 of your book and on your blog), you should refer to R' Hershel Schachter accordingly -- Rav Hershel Schachter Shlit"A. Please address these mistakes accordingly.

G said...

I truly hope that this post was a chunk of unabashed motzi-shem-ra. ...forgive me if I call b---s--- as you then proceed to continue writing as if under the assumption that it was anything but.

--this is not even to mention that your whole rant about yissachar/zevulun is based entirely on such a false strawman argument that it would be funny if weren't so tragic.

YechezkelsFriendInTheHouseOfSun said...

First, you're going against the Gemorah if you blame non-learners for the system being broken. The Gemorah specifically says that learning will be supported when the learners are keeping G-d's Will correctly. If they're not being supported, it must be (according to the Gemorah) that they are "eino oseh ratzon shel maaleh."

Second, it's 100% wrong to see Yissochar/Zevulun as the model for the entire society. It was only 2 tribes. The other 10 were osek be'Torah while earning their own living. This was said explicitly by a Chareidi Rav in J-lem who (in Yechezkel's style) I'll call RYMHCR. There is no Torah support for saying that Y/Z is for all of Jewish society.

Third, if you think you're defending Yonasan Rosenblum, he himself has certainly said numerous times that something needs to be done besides assuming that everyone will be supported.

Fourth, Rav Shimon Bar Yochai doesn't "take care of" anything in Berachos. The Gemorah there doesn't pasken like him. And the Gemorah says that many tried his way and it didn't work.

Fifth, any man who is not providing his wife mezonos is violating Torah. Any man who doesn't teach his children a trade is violating a halacha de'Rabanan.

Last, I would like to see a mekor for your assertion that it is a Torah ideal for anyone who wants to learn to learn. Any mekor. Without a mekor, how can a chareidi make such a statement?