Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Charedi View on Perpetuating Poverty

Guest Contribution by Rabbi Baruch Tennenbaum*

How many are learning at a level justifying community support?
Once again, I am proud to feature the words of a prominent, highly respected Charedi individual who has sent me a personal correspondence about yesterday’s post entitled, ‘Perpetuating Poverty in Israel’.  As in his previous submissions - he asked to remain anonymous because of his sensitive position in the community. 

I have again granted his request but used an alias this time. My only comment is that I believe his views are a lot more mainstream in the Charedi world than many there are willing to admit. Including their rabbinic leaders. His words follow.

We have created a generation of non-working people, who only create expenses without doing anything to bring in income.  The list of excuses for this is quite long, and even boring for the most part.  But it is unacceptable to me. 

I am reminded constantly of the edict by our Chachomim (Sotah 40a) that one is first required to establish residence, then parnosoh, and only later to marry.  I can accept the trend to have all yungerleit sit in kollel for a minimum of time, and I can even accept the trend away from education in colleges and universities.  But this has escaped the boundaries of saichel long ago. 

We have kollelim that are swollen to many times their ideal size.  I might enjoy and even relish the Kol Torah.  But how many of those who populate the kollel system belong there?  Why are they taking from the Klal instead of giving?  Who told them that this is okay? 

People blame Rav Aharon Kotler ZT”L, but that is not based on truth.  He was asked about the violation of the above gemora, and he stated that the establishment of kollelim was a desperate horo’as sho’oh.  That was 60 years ago.  A sho’oh cannot last that long.

If one actually examines today’s kollel, one will find those who are truly learning, who will grace the next generation with the services of a leader, posek, rosh yeshiva, etc.  One will also find a greater percentage of those who are warming their chairs or benches, basically using the beis hamedrash for refuge from responsibility. 

Our chinuch system has been tortured with a huge (but B”H decreasing) percentage of these yungerleit for whom chinuch is not a profession but a default for those who would fail dismally at jobs in which their knowledge would be inadequate. 

We have a generation of dependents, and it requires Gedolei Yisroel to stop it.  Yes, stop it.  Kollel needs to regain its honor as an institution where one prepares for the Higher Tzorchei Tzibbur, where leaders are able to grow with the nurturing of Gedolei Yisroel and support of the Klal.  At present, there is precious little of this, and the Klal is sentenced to shame.

I am not against large families.  And even in good times, some of these families may struggle.  But it CANNOT be the responsibility of every resident of Boro Park to marry off the children of the Yidden from Eretz Yisroel who have never worked a day in their lives.  I cannot pasken what is considered tzedokoh, but someone who voluntarily sentences himself to poverty, then schnorrs to sustain himself and his family cannot be high on the list.

The issue is unrelenting, and I am disturbed by it on a daily basis.  The desperation and dependency is so great that the schnorrers who circulate the beis hamedrash where I daven daily have no hesitation to disturb with their “sales pitches” during every part of davening.  Yes, they can see that I am obviously saying Kriyas Shema or Shemoneh Esrai, but have no boundaries to stop them from disturbing me even when I am not allowed to be mafsik.  I am aware of several shuls where collecting is off limits. 

I have personally intervened when a schnorrer approaches the Shaliach Tzibbur during chazoras hashatz or other times.  

A dear chaver of mine told me that he once sent a letter to Rav Chaim Kanievsky with a long checklist that included every conceivable instance during davening – when may one be mafsik to give tzedokoh to these collectors.  The letter was returned with the inscription on the top – עוסק במצוה פטור מן המצוה. (When performing a Mitzvah one is released from other Mitzvah obligations -HM)

This topic is painful, and discussing it here will not make it go away.  Finding more money won’t work, any better than replacing a gas tank in a car that lacks essential engine parts to make the car go faster.  And trying to limit access to Kollel just ain’t PC.

*Not his real name