Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Torah Only? They Aren't Kidding

Is that all there is?
It is almost as if Torah Study in the Charedi world has degenerated into some sort of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Shocking as though this statement might be one would be hard pressed to see it any other way. It is worshipped to the exclusion of all else. Literally. Nothing else matters. 

While some areas outside of Torah study may be permissible, (like supporting one’s family by working) they are certainly not of much value and practically ignored by Charedi leaders and their surrogates in the Kensset. It is the study of Torah that they entirely focus upon – almost ignoring everything else.

Lest anyone think I am exaggerating, all they need do is listen to an interview of MK Rabbi Moshe Gafne of the Charedi political party, Yahadut HaTorah. This is the party that Charedim are required to vote for if they want to retain their Charedi credentials.  Rabbi Gafne was interviewed on the Israeli radio station Kol B'Rama (KB). It was conducted in Hebrew and can be heard at the Hebrew website Kikar HaShabbat. It has been and translated on YWN. Here are some selected nuggets from that interview:

Moshe Gafne explained from his perspective there is no such thing as ‘working chareidi’.

I do not accept the categorization. There are those who opt to leave yeshiva and join the working community.

Are they called chareidim?

No they are no(t). I do not accept this. It does not exist. One who does not learn in kollel and works has left. 

…There are children who are not accepted for one reason or another. Sometimes because the parents work, at times other reasons …

One can go to work and that is fine but they are not the same as those immersed in limud.
In the time of the Chassam Sofer there were those who worked and those who did not but the difference is they all adhered to his word, unlike today…

I do not accept the category. There is no such thing as working chareidim and I do not need an asifa. This is the fact.

But these people do not know who to vote for? Who represents them? …Can you admit there is a group that feels Yahadut Hatorah is now their home, that you do not represent them? Perhaps the people Aryeh Deri and Eli Yishai are working to enlist?

It is not a “group”. There is no group like this…

Rav Gafne you are avoiding the issue. Is there such a thing as working chareidim?

No there is not. There are chareidim who adhere to gedolei yisrael. That is it.

Have you visited the Kiryat Ono Chareidi College?

No. It is not my job. My job is to concern myself with the needs of lomdei Torah and that is it. One wishing to attend a chareidi college may but it is not my job. I do not represent academics.

That is exactly the point. That is what they say. You and Yahadut Hatorah does not represent them. Don’t you understand this is how they feel? They are looking for representation.

From my perspective I represent them too but not regarding academics

No you do not and that is where we started. They are without representation

They must consult with their rav, the same rabbonim who permitted them to attend a college, even a chareidi one. We have to worry about the lomdei Torah for that is our goal and our future. I do not encourage academics and it is not my job...

For me it is ideology. It has not and will not change no matter how good they are. I am here for lomdei Torah, not academics. Since the lomdei Torah keep us all going and they are targeted [by the government] it is my job to assist them, no one else...

…I follow what I was taught by Maran HaRav Shach and do my best to assist anyone and everyone that comes to me.

I never heard you stutter like today... You are in an untenable situation. Perhaps it is time to reconsider and look at the generation and it is time to change things around

… there is nothing to change, not even one millimeter. This is what it is and will continue to do. This is our job and our responsibility.

Well if there was any doubt about how the Charedi world looks at those – even of their own people – that are not in full time Kollel, this should settle it. They have lost their Charedi credentials. This is the legacy of Rav Shach. And it is still being followed to the letter by Charedi leaders and their politicians. 

The problem of course (as I’ve said many times) is that the fruit of their labor is a bitter pill for them to swallow. Extreme poverty that seems to be increasing every year by leaps and bounds. 

Yet another article in the Forward reminds us about the Taub Center report that found the poverty rate in Israel among Charedim increasing to 66% in 2013, up from 60% in 2012.

I do not understand the kind of thinking that Rabbi Gafne has expressed. Does he really believe what he is saying?  Does he really believe that this is what God wants of His people? To study Torah all day long in increasing poverty? This and only this?! Does he really believe there is so little value in anything else? Medicine? Scientific research? Supporting one’s family? Protecting the public welfare via the police and army? …all not worthy of any support in the Charedi world?

And this is what the Torah world in America want’s to emulate?!

In my view this kind of thinking is obsessive. It is compulsive. And it is counter to the values of the Torah to ignore anything else but its own study. Maybe at some deep level even Rabbi Gafne realizes that. Maybe that’s why this interview made him stutter.

It appears that the YWN transaltion is inaccurate. This post was based on the assumption that it was. He did not say that there is no such thing as a Charedi worker. He only said that he does not accept that as a separate category. But he did say that working Charedim are second tier.

This does not take away from the fact that Rabbi Gafne’s words indicate that in the Charedi world there is an unhealthy obsession with Limud Hatorah (to the exclusion of all else)  that borders on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.