Monday, December 26, 2005

The Tyranny of the Modern Day Kollel System

One of the biggest problems facing the Torah world today is that of Avreichim spending far too many years in a Kollel. Instead of spending a year or two post marriage they can spend double or triple that amount of time. The problem of course is the purity of Torah study demanded of these young Kollel members. They are forbidden to do anything accept learn full time. The result is that when they finally do leave the walls of the Beis HaMedrash, they are ill prepared to find a decent job.

Why is this the case? Because the leadership of Charedi Yeshivos and Kolellim has infused these young men with the notion that any distraction from learning full time is Bitul Torah and a waste of time. It is therefore severely frowned upon in the Torah world. Not only is ther pressure from the Roshei Yeshiva and Roshei Kollel to stay in learning full time, there is also peer pressure. The result is that these young people stay well past the time they should have left to find work. This can and does often cause undue strain on a marriage and a family. It would be such an improvement for Klal Yisroel for the Roshei Yeshiva to let these young men out at an age where they can learn a Parnassa in a decent field. Or at least allow them to go to college at night while in Kollel... or while yet in the Yeshiva pre marriage.

About twenty years ago, I spoke to a Rosh Kollel that was once a Rebbe of mine and asked him about this problem. Surprisingly he agreed with me and told me that he tries to do something like this in his Kollel. He encourages those who are not Gadol material to leave after a year or two and get training of some sort for a job. But he then followed it up very quickly with the comment: Please don’t publicize my views on this issue. I hear that a lot when people express vies that are not in line with the mainstream thinking amongst Charedim. I have been told that the consequences of such opinions can be quite severe. This was made quite clear to me recently by the following:

I spoke to a young man who spent 8 years in a Kollel. He told me that he had heard about my views and wanted me to know that he was a victim of precisely the kind of pressure I described above. His wife had wanted him to leave the Kollel he was in after six years. He was feeling the financial pressure to leave and find a job. He was told two years in a row that he should stay and not worry about Parnassa... to have Bitachon. HaShem would answer his needs. Finally after two years of this he went to his Rosh Kollel and basically told him that his marriage was on the line and he was finally given permission to go and find a job.

This same person also explained to me why there is so little dissention amongst the ranks of Roshei Kollel. The consequences are indeed severe, When a Rosh Kollel starts speaking his mind on issues and it conflicts with the accepted norm amongst Charedim, they are not merely bad mouthed or scorned. They are completely and immediately shut down. It ends their career as Roshei Kollel.

How sad is that!

It seems like an insurmountable task to change this current malaise. Will the Torah world perpetuate itself into oblivion? I have said that my own Hashkafa of Centrism is in danger of extinction for different reasons. But if things don’t change, the Charedi world is going to collapse of its own weight as well.