Sunday, August 23, 2009

Classes of Dependency

If any of you folks have read my book, you are aware that a good portion of it is focused on presenting a comprehensive definition of what is a "chareidi". You may have noticed that at first I present a rather obscure definition:

A NCOJ (non-chareidi Orthodox Jew) is one who knows the Chumash. A chareidi is one who knows the Chumash with Rashi.
(For details, see this post.)

I continue fine-tuning the definition until I arrive at the theme of the book:

A chareidi is one who upholds אם בחקתי תלכו and a non-chareidi is one who meets any level of ואם בחקתי תמאסו .
People have challenged my definition by claiming that there are many folks who call themselves Modern Orthodox who would meet my definintion of "chareidi" even though they definitely aren't. My response is that those who are very learned and sincere about living according to Halacha and promoting Torah study actually are. I would still call them "chareidi" even if they wear large knitted or small leather yarmulkas and don't wear hats when they daven. As I wrote in my book: if that's the only difference it ain't much of a difference.

But then they ask that still there are throngs of people who still seem to meet the qualifications of "doing mitzvos with toil in Torah" who I certainly will not consider to be chareidi. Such as people who write blogs and call them deceiving names like "Emes Ve-Emunah". Where have they "gone wrong?"

The answer is that they have gone wrong in two areas. In this post, I will only suffice to talk about one of them* and that is that even though they incorporate into their lives some level of "ameilus b'Torah", it is not the "ameilus b'Torah" that is mandated in Parshas Bechukosai. The "ameilus b"Torah" of Parshas Bechukosai has to meet the standards of "Torascha k'va u'melachtecha arai". The "melacha" that one does is only to sustain ones own Torah and the Torah of others. The goal is to generate as much Torah learning as possible with only the minimum "melacha". Torascha k'va means that one only does "melacha" to sustain himself in Torah and mitzvos. And he does everything in his power to assist others who can study even more intensely than himself. I wrote about this on page 78 of my book.

Unfortunately, most of these "non-chareidim" who may "toil in Torah" only do so to feel that they are worthy of being successful in "melacha".

How do I know?

Because I see them fighting against Torah L'Shma and Torascha K'va tooth and nail. Thus when people like Mr. "Emes Ve-Emunah" go out of their way to decry a "Dependency Class", a term he borrowed from Rabbi Berel Wein, by the way, to outline the "sins" of the kollel community and conclude that "the dependency class is doomed to failure" we see that he has lost sight of "Emes" and is bankrupt in "Emunah".

What is the deception?

The deception is twofold: Firstly, the fallacy that there should not be a "dependency class" and secondly, the fallacy that "ills" of the "dependency class" are due to their own sins and not due to the sins of the "working" or, better put, the "self-serving" class.

As for the first fallacy, Klal Yisroel has always had a dependency class and it always will. This is because it is an intregal part of Klal Yisroel and we need to have it. In Biblical times the "dependency class" was the entire tribe of Levi. Their job was to do the Avodas Hakodesh in the Bais HaMikdash - for no salary - and to sing praises to Hashem for all of Klal Yisroel. And they had a second job. That was to study Torah day and night and to teach it to the "working class". Thus, the pasuk says:  י יוֹרוּ מִשְׁפָּטֶיךָ לְיַעֲקֹב וְתוֹרָתְךָ לְיִשְׂרָאֵל יָשִׂימוּ קְטוֹרָה בְּאַפֶּךָ וְכָלִיל עַל מִזְבְּחֶךָ:
And for this, they received no steady compensation. And they received no portion of farmland in an agricultural economy. They were totally dependent. And the Torah says: כט וּבָא הַלֵּוִי כִּי אֵין - לוֹ חֵלֶק וְנַחֲלָה עִמָּךְ ...וְאָכְלוּ וְשָׂבֵעוּ .
"And the Levi shall come, for he has no portion or inheritance with you and he shall eat and be satisfied..."


למען יברכך ה' אלקיך בכל מעשה ידך אשר תעשה

So that Hashem your G-d should bless you in all of your handiwork that you do.

Did you get that? You know why we give to these freeloaders? So that we will be successful. We are doing it for us!!! You know what this means?

That's right...

...we are dependent on them!!!

In those days, anybody from the tribe of Levi qualified by birthright even if he did not live up to his job of Avodas Hashem or studying or teaching. He was a Levi. He is entitled.

Today we do not recognize the tribe of Levi. But we maintain that those who devote their lives to Avodas Hashem and studying and teaching Torah are still entitled to our full support. The Rambam - who so many Modern Orthodox scholars maintain was not a "chareidi" - tells us this in Hilchos Shmitta V'Yovel (13:12-13).

We will always have a dependency class, and we need a dependency class - because we depend on them!!

The second fallacy is that the financial problems of the "dependency class" is due to their looking for a "free lunch" as Rabbi Wein writes. THEY are creating in THEMSELVES a "dependency mentality" that will cause them to engage in the shadier side of livelihood.

This is false!! They are not creating a "dependency mentality".


Mr. Emes Ve-Emunah begins his post by writing:

The world of Charedi Avreichim – married students who spend many years in Kollel - has evolved into a dependency class. They survive almost entirely on government handouts. This is true for both Israel and the United States.

As an aside, this is a false statement. Government assistance is the smallest portion of family income for Kollel families. Some families do get some relief from WIC, Food Stamps and HUD but that is about all. Believe it or not, there are plenty working families in America who take WIC, Food Stamps and HUD. For Kollel families, the largest source of income is usually the working income of the wife. Is that called being dependent? In Eretz Yisroel there is no HUD, no food stamps and no WIC. Child allowances are equal benefits for rich and poor, religious and secular. It is not a handout, it is bought by Bituach Leumi payments. (I wrote about it at length HERE). Some avreichim recieve a paltry sum from Misrad Hadasos which is merely symbolic. A non-Israeli avreich is not even entitled to that!

But - let's take it all at face value. Why should a Kollel avreich need to rely on government handouts? Why can't he live off of his Kollel check? He does his time. He earns it. Why can't he just take a Kollel check and finished?

Because the amount on his Kollel check is laughable, thats why. And whose fault is that?

It isn't his. He'll be happy to take a check that provides even a most rudimentary living wage and not bother with government handouts.

So whose fault is it? Who creates this "dependency mentality" that pushes people into shady ventures to stay afloat?

We do!!

We make Roshei Kollel scrounge and beg and preach to them how they are ruining Jewish society by keeping good learning minds in learning while we write out our $18 checks. Many Roshei Yeshivos who have had to travel the world to meet their payroll have declared that if Klal Yisroel would only give an honest maaser to proper Tzedakkos and mosdos, no Jew would go hungry and no Yeshiva?Kollel would go bankrupt.

The money is there! Or, at least it was. And instead of giving it with a smile we belittle the Kollel community that they have to rely on "government handouts" like they should be ashamed of it.

They should be ashamed?? And not us?? Why are the baalei batim of the world - the chassidim of Emes Ve-Emunah - not ashamed that the "dependency class" that we depend upon has to fall back on "government handouts" because an avreich can't get a Kollel check of more than $150 a week?

This point was brought home to me when I saw YU announce that even though they lost $110M courtesy of Uncle Bernie, their $1.2B endowment fund is still intact. I wrote a lengthy post about this entitled: The Richest Man in the Cemetery. I made a suggestion that YU should perhaps take a fraction of the interest of that fund and use it to support Torah institutions in Eretz Yisroel. Of course, people will respond that who says they have the authority to do that? The people who donated the money donated it to YU and not to chareidi institutions. I concede that (except that in truth, YU can do whatever they want with the interest income) but I still note that if this money has to sit dormant and can't go toward outside Torah interests (even if not "chareidi") then it is misspent Jewish money. And how much other money is sitting around in endowments and trusts in the hands of devoted Jews that will never benefit the bodies or souls of their possessors nor of the Jewish people in toto?

So, both to Rabbi Wein and to Rabbi Maryles I say that if you have any Emunah you should know that the Emes is as follows: If the "depencency class" is doomed , then so are we.

Because we depend on them.

And we baalei-batim should change our own "dependency mentality", because Rabbi Wein is right about one thing:

There is no free lunch.

But it is our lunch that he is talking about.

*Stay tuned for the second area where our well-meaning "non-Chareidim" have "gone wrong".


Not Brisk said...

I think the people mentioned in your article are well intended and it is not fair to label them. Rabbi Marlyes is not against yegiyah, rather is pro having a side alternative. He is trying to emulate his great Rebbi in being miyeageyah in in learning while having other interests.

Dov said...

You're unable to consider that the poverty that's being created might not be ratzon Hashem?

I have several people knock on my door every day collecting for themselves for tzedaka. Most is to put food on the table.

Forget whether they have a chiyuv to work to avoid this, or whether they're fulfilling their chiyuvim for mezonos. That's been raised before.

The real simple question is: Is this poverty truly ratzon Hashem?

Does Hashem want us to be mesader the world with such a high number of ani'im?

Does Hashem truly want so many people to be demeaning themselves by collecting door to door?

Or might it be that we're supposed to realize that this is something that needs to be fixed?

Anonymous said...

The current kolel/yeshiva phenomenon is a new one that hasn't existed ever (to compare it to the kohanim, which is a birthright, is comparing apples and oranges). Traditionally the top learners would learn for as long as was sustainable with everyone else going to work. This makes sense as torah scholarship is part and parcel to our existence. But nowadays every joe-shmo bochur is being encouraged to learn in kolel regardless of his aptitude, skill, and motivation. This is where the problem really lies, and considering that the entrance exams to most yeshivas are fairly easy and the accountability (at least in the larger yeshivas) is fairly low makes for a wasteful inefficient kollel system. That being said up until 300-400 years ago (even more recently) most jews worked and not just b'dived. The taanaim and amoraim had professions and so did great rabbinic figures such as the rambam, and the ramban, and rashi and pretty much every one else. You are right that we need torah to survive but the issue with the modern kolel system has nothing to do with torah. It has to do with the inefficiency of the system and the overall disdain towards the working man. Turn kolel back to the elitist system that it once was and jewish society will save alot of money (which can be pumped back into yeshiva tuition) and our constituents will lead happier more meaningful jewish lives.

Harry Maryles said...

This most insulting post is benath both you ....and contempt. And it is proof postive thta youb have no clue about me and even less about Rabbi Wein.

What makes you think I don't support learning in Kolel? Because I don't think it is ethical to abuse a gov't program?! ...even if it is technically legal? My son nort onlhy learns all day buirt riuns a night kollel with my full support!

NOr is my admontion that the kollel system has turned into a depenmdancy a rayah that I am opposed to kollel. What I am opposed to is the brianwashing that gies on that indoctrinates every human Jewish male that he must strive to learn in Kollel no matter what and that if he doesn't he is a sub human being.

It was not the entirelty of the Beni Yisroel that was made into a dependancy class. it was Shevet Levi. q1/12th of its population. If we get back to those numbers I would have no problem supportin g it. In fact if we conmtinued to rasie the same number of dollars - or even half that number to support yungelite, they would have more tghan enough to live a quite normal middle class lifestytle.

One of your problems is that you think your occasional sense of humor substitues for rational responses. I fully expect one here. But I will not be fooled by it.You sir hvae been brainwahsed right along with the 60 thousand Avrreichim in Israel most of whom should be getting jobs. I wonder what percntage of all Charedim - ( know - Charedim - the only real Jews) - that is?

If I ever had any respect for you - it is now gone.

Anonymous said...

I think the problem is that nowadays in Israel the only acceptable option for a "serious" bochur getting married is to learn in kollel "indefinitely" - otherwise he will never find a decent girl from a good haredi family. And the only option for a "serious" haredi girl out of beis yakov is to want a boy who is planning to learn in kollel indefinitely. HOWEVER - all this on condition that they enjoy all the benefits of a standard of living commensurate with a couple who have a double income!! How can a young couple on a kollel stipend, and not always with a wife's income, possibly afford a nice three room apartment with new furniture, and nice clothes, custom wigs, and new prams and baby accoutrements as soon as the family starts? And yet, this is what is expected and demanded! The option of learning full time in kollel should be realised as being a LUXURY that has to be paid for with doing without many many material benefits taken for granted in the surrounding society. If it were regarded as such, then the couples would be much less demanding of their parents and delight in the mesirus nefesh of living a Torah life - bread with salt, water in measure, etc.....

Ahavah Gayle said...

The Cohanim in Biblical times had towns where they ran shops and businesses and the fields around those towns where they farmed. They only performed two weeks of regular service a year, plus mandatory service for all at the time of the festivals, if I recall correctly. That means they only served at the Temple about 6 weeks out of the year and spent the rest of the year, that would be 46 weeks, working in their businesses and farms. That's not hardly the same as the kollelniks, who do nothing at all to support their families, ever.

Anonymous said...

I must make a small comment to Mr. Maryles' comment regarding Shevet Levi being "only" 1/12th of the Bnei Yisroel, and his having "no problem supporting it if we get back to those numbers".

Well, what proportion of Bnei Yisroel nowadays are Kollel yungerleit? The total proportion of MINIMALLY FRUM Yidden amongst Bnei Yisroel doesn't even reach that number!!! And full time learners? A tiny fraction of this!
So I'm pleased to note that Mr. Maryles will from now on be fully supportive!!!

Anonymous said...

A correction regarding Shevet Levi, since they were the smallest shevet they were about 1.5% of the total of Bnei Yisroel and not 1/12th. While the number represents a smaller age group 30-50 and not 20-60 these are the numbers the Torah give us.
I Support Colel learning but only those who really learn

Anonymous said...

I didn't understand the concluding part of your article, could you please explain it more?

Yechezkel said...

My instincts tell me that if you did not understand the conclusion of the article, then you likewise did not understand the premise.

I am happy to clarify it but, since this is an old post, it is better to discuss it directly via email at:

If you do contact me, please specify the exact parts that you do not understand.