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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Slavery Mentality

Directly related to the discussion on how to rescue an entire community from crushing poverty would be the discussion on how to free a community from a slavery mentality.

We know that when Hashem took the nation out of Egypt, there were complaints about difficulty of life in the midbar, specifically the lack of specific foods. Despite the crushing slavery that was Mitzrayim, there was also was security, ironic as it may seem. We are told that one of the miracles of the Exodus was that Am Yisrael became free men in the fullest sense of the term. Our communal memory of slavery had to be completely eradicated in order to truly become bnei horin. As we know, communal memories run deep.

Today much of the Orthodox world has become slaves to another set of rulers l'chatchila. The only "solutions" Mr. Rosenblum presented were those of a man enslaved by a welfare mentality: being on the government's payroll (i.e. the dole) and taking tzedakah from the "rich." And even the third solution, living a simpler life, which should be commendable if the solution was attached to fighting ostentatious displays of consumption, not in making a three year old sleep on the floor because one has chose a "Career in Learning" and can't afford mattresses.

Ariella recently wrote a post called Free Food on Nahama deskisufa, or bread of shame. Bread which is not earned is inherently differently than bread earned through efforts in this world. But what happens when a person becomes accustomed to eating from the efforts of others? They become a ward in the welfare state.

Ariella points to a post from her communal list serve in which a husband and father of 5 children is considering passing up a pay raise because he might loose his food stamps! There is no question that welfare is as addictive as any drug.

Want to fight poverty? Free the slaves.


Zach Kessin said...

I don't know how much simpler you can make it, Some things are just required, food and heat for example.

I expect in the american kollel set this is going to be a very very bad winter. With credit very tight and debt high, as well as higher prices I expect that a lot of families are going to hit the wall HARD.

Somehow I don't think CPS is going to very sympatetic to a family with 6 kids and no heat when the father is in kollel.

I kind of feel like Casandara here

triLcat said...

Wait a tic. I'm a mother, and I adore my creature comforts as much as the next person, but hello, the 3-year-old is sleeping on the floor. What about the parents? Do they have beds? I would sleep on the floor before I would leave my daughter to sleep on the floor.

I'm actually fairly shocked that they couldn't come up with something used for free or very cheap.

I've picked 2 beds out of trash heaps and cleaned them up (with dish soap) then put cheap mattress pads on them and voila, bed!

Somehow I feel like they're selling a sob story.

Leora said...

And to think that in my youth I was somewhat of a socialist. Now I love to quote Benjamin Franklin:
"God helps those who help themselves." If anyone knows a Talmudic version of that expression, I would love to be able to quote it.

David said...

What is this "career in learning" of which you speak? Last I checked, a "career" was something which paid the person pursuing it, except when used ironically, such as a "career student."

Maybe we need to get a whole lot of people used to the notion that like folks such as Rashi, the Rambam, and Rabbi Akiva, they too will need to balance a profession with their learning.

JS said...

It's reading article's like mr. rosenblum's that make me wonder if yiddishkeit (or at least this version of it) is a benefit or a detriment in people's lives. It's heretical to say these people would all be better off living a secular life, but it's hard to argue why when they lead such lifestyles.

Their rav, who is a personal represention of yiddishkeit, tells them not to work, tells them not to get job skills, tells them when to have children and how many to have, how to spend their money, etc etc etc.

I refuse to believe that all this suffering and poverty and mindless rabbi-following gets them into heaven any faster than anyone else.

So, I look at these people with their twisted worldviews when the answer to their problems is as simple as looking in a wanted section and I think they're out of their minds, they're suffering for some rabbi's idea of what yiddishkeit is. And I wonder if they wouldn't be better off totally secular.

What brings me most to this conclusion is that they don't just choose this lifestyle for themselves, they force it on their children. And if I'm sitting on the sidelines pondering these heretical thoughts, wondreing if they'd be better off secular, you can bet a significant number of their children are thinking it as well.

People need to open their eyes up and question what they're doing in God's name and whether this is really what God wants from them.

SephardiLady said...

David-I added the quotes.

Leora-There is a halacha to this effect, helping a man who is trying to load his donkey, but there is no obligation to help a man that is not taking the initial action.

ProfK said...

There's a great book that deals with the issues of work from a Jewish viewpoint that could add a lot to all of our discussions. I posted all the info at A Morsel on Work

ora said...

Begging for money vs. secular--isn't that like asking whether it's better to be on heroin or crack? Does it even matter, or should we just push sobriety? In this case, it would be silly to try to secularize kollel families and end up in another bad situation when what they really need is REAL Torah, which includes supporting your family.

I agree with Trilcat that this story sounds odd. I live in a city with many, many hareidi kollel families and have yet to meet such a family or hear such a story. I think it's those living in America who hear the really bad stories about Israeli kollel life, which is natural, because ya'll are the ones they're hitting up for money. I just can't tell if the stories are true, exaggerated for greater emotional effect, or true but very rare.

I do remember that a few months ago one very poor kollel wife (family had trouble buying food) asked some of the other kollel wives what she should do, and the answer was unanimous: tell your husband to get a job!! These were Israeli kollel wives, all saying it's better to work than let your kids be hungry/live in extreme poverty, and I have yet to meet someone who says otherwise even in the most hardcore communities. The impression I get is that the men who absolutely refuse to support their families because they have to be "holy" aren't doing so because of their affiliation with any particular group, but rather, because they are abusive or otherwise mentally disturbed. If the same husbands were secular, they'd be spending their welfare money on cheap vodka and lottery tickets while the kids went hungry.

JS said...

My point was as follows:
1) I think this brand of Judaism - not working, making one's family starve, being completely subservient to a rabbi, etc - is not Judaism. Therefore, they might as well be secular, maybe then they wouldn't have so many crazy ideas and might, at the very least, feed and support their families.

2) Such extreme deprivation and poverty breeds hatred for that which you're suffering for. I think many young children growing up in this system will leave it because all it means to them is suffering.

3) Lastly, their lifestyle and their calling it not only Judaism, but authentic Judaism that everyone should follow breeds hatred not just of them, but of all religious people. This is true not just when people see and hear of their suffering or the fact that it has such a simple, brain-dead obvious solution, but also when they have the nerve to suggest it is everyone's duty from individuals to communities to the State to support them.

So yes, I think on some level it would be better if they never got involved in this nonsense and were completely secular Jews who take care of their families and contribute to society.

Anonymous said...

I almost never post, but I felt I must add my 2 cents.
Lately,this past year I have come on hard times.I still make B"H enough to support my family,but not much more.
Now many people knock on my door for donations, and I give a dollar or two.
In this past week, one person hinted to cursing me, and one did not accept my donation.
Should I not open my door anymore or keep up with my dollar donation?
(I do live in a large house to accomodate my family,so people do assume I am wealthy)

tdr said...

When a meshulach comes to my door, before they even get 2 words out, I tell them "I'm only giving $---" and let them decide to take it or leave it. While in the past I have had meshulachim become very snitty about my "meager" contribution to their cause, since I started telling them up front what they would be getting, I have not had a comment.

Sometimes, when I literally do not have a dollar to give, I say, "Unfortunately, I don't have any money to give you". Usually I get a very sincere brocha when I say that, something I really appreciate.