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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Guest Post from Kollel Guy

I agreed to host a guest post from Kollel Guy. I had referenced his blog just last week.
Below is the Guest Post. Feel free to add your comments.

Title: Kollel Has Become a Dirty Word

It seems that kollel has become a dirty word these days, especially around middle aged frum women in their 40s and 50s who are finding themselves having to support their children whose husbands are of course "learning in kollel". It seems that although they profess pride that their daughters married "learning boys," nevertheless, they resent being forced into footing the bill.

How would they feel if their daughter had married a doctor who was still struggling through medical school, with another 3-5 years of residency and fellowship after he gets out? Would they still resent supporting them through that time? Obviously not, because the son in law is actively involved in the pursuit of a (hopefully) successful career, one in which he will be able to readily support his family on his own when he finally finishes. They are able to overlook the short term and focus on the long term picture, which for them is a highly successful doctor making good money.

If you are in kollel and are being supported by your parents, know these two things:
1. Your mother (and mother in law) resent having to support you
2. You have the ability to change their attitude very quickly

If kollel was not just an end, but a means to a bright future, then supporting you would be a delight instead of drain. Not only would they be happier supporting you, but you too would feel better being supported by them.

It's tough to pick yourself up and leave kollel, but it's even harder to stay in kollel when you are not welcome. Tagline: I got out of kollel myself, and you can do it too. For inspiration, strategies, and down to earth advice on how to make a graceful exit from kollel, visit


Commenter Abbi said...

I doubt SL has very many readers who are in kollel.

Anonymous said...

She has at least one. Hello!

I've commented before on Kollel related posts, and I'll do it again.

Kollel is a beautiful thing however, it's a personal decision and therefore, a personal responsibility. If you can figure out a way to be in kollel and be self sufficient, then beautiful. It's doable. My husband and I do it.

If not, maybe you have parents or in laws who happen to be millionaires and say hey, Yankel, we'd love to shower you with cash so that you can study Torah unencumbered by financial stress. Then great. It's their money, let them spend it the way they want to.

BUT, if it gets to a point where the only way to live is to rely on handouts and government programs...well here's where the personal responsibility thing should come into play.

Anonymous said...

Another difference between Kollel and Med school or any other type of college/grad school is that in the later, the students are often taking out loans to finance their education and will pay back those loans. How many men would stay in kollel and for how long if they had to finance it with student loans? Another difference these days, is that the person in med school or grad school is as likely to be a woman as a man. Finally, while having one or two children before finishing med school/grad school is not unheard of, having 3 or more children before you can support them is highly unusual.

The Hedyot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Hedyot said...

I can't figure out what this guy is trying to say. First he sounds like he's defending kollel, trying to get people who resent those in kollel to appreciate it. Then he sounds like he's telling people in kollel that they should leave it when their supporters are resentful of it. Huh? Which one is he advocating? Staying or leaving?

Illogical argument aside, I think his perspective is just batty. In his latest post on his site, he says, "Asking others to bear your burden is fine if you are truly committed..." WHAT?! That he can so blithely say "asking others to bear your burden is fine" is indication that he has absolutely no sense of personal responsibility.

Anonymous said...

"Learning in kollel"

Notice the quotes around this phrase. We don't actually know whether there is any learning going on as there are no tests, and no way to measure achievement.

"Title: Kollel Has Become a Dirty Word"

There are good reasons why kollel has become a dirty word. I can't understand why a system that encourages such corruption continues.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:58, I understand your opinion, and I understand where it comes from, however,if my husband is in Kollel, we pay full tuition, get no support, and no government programs, then how am I corrupt?

No way to measure achievement? I believe he considers passing his semicha exams and the sefer he published to be achievements.

Your blanket generalizations are unfair to some.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:13. Good for you for doing it on your own. Unfortunately, if the information floating around the blogosphere is correct, that sounds like the exception.

The problem, IMHO, is that so many young couples are pushed into Kollel without a full understanding of what it means. I wonder how many couples would choose Kollel if they did have to do it on their own financially and understood the long term ramifications for career and ability to support a family.

Orthonomics said...

I agree, quite unfair.

Additionally, there are students who fund their own beis medrash with student loans. We have such a friend who did not marry while in beis medrash and paid his own way through a semicha program.

Orthonomics said...

Abbi-I've seen my blog referenced for its money saving tips on YWN. So I must have some more RW readers.

gavra@work said...

A large part of the push into kollel comes from the girls, which comes from seminary (RW or LW). Cut out sem, and your daughters will naturally want to marry someone responsible (with at the very least an exit strategy) instead of someone who plans on living off you, their community and the government for the rest of their lives.

Post-sem, you can inform your daughter they will not be supported, or will be for X dollars for X years. Then STICK TO IT! He will work if he has no choice.

We are the enablers of dependency and helplessness. We can also make it stop.

dvorak613 said...

I think kollelguy makes a really good point about kollel in general. It not kollel that's the problem, it's what the community has made it into. I agree that it is a beautiful and important institution given the following conditions: only the best and the brightest stay for the long term with the community agreeing to support them; others stay only for the short term and then go out to earn a living; and lastly, those who are not the at that top but wish to stay do so as long as they are self-sufficient.

Anonymous said...

especially around middle aged frum women in their 40s and 50s

Why are the women and not their the most bitter?On another note, I know many Kollel people and it was usually the boys mother (a women in her 40's or 50's)who were the most insistent that her son be supported.Usually more then the boy himself.

Miami Al said...

We need to stop marrying off children and having them have children while they are still children.

This is NOT about age. You can be a mature, self reliant 16 year old adult. You can be 35, living at home, and still a child.

We need to be encouraging children to start to think and act like adults before marriage and becoming adults.

I see a tremendous number of people in their early-mid 20s, with 1-2 children, running to their parents for everything... not getting opinions and advice, but expecting their parents to make parenting decisions.

I see wives whose families are in financial disarray telling their husbands that they can't work because the have a 1 year old... if you can afford it, fine, but the apartment is behind and being foreclosed on but you don't care you don't want to use day care?!?!?

Semicha and publications are accomplishments Anon 9:13, terrific. I have plenty of academic awards and recognition too. The difference is that I turned mine into a career.

Stay in Kollel, stay in the Academy, do whatever. However, if you are an adult, married, and have children, stop engaging in self indulgence and grow up. If your career is in the Rabbinate, the Semicha is a step. If you do NOT plan a career in the Rabbinate, then your Semicha is about as helpful as a Bass Fishing award.

You can attach holiness to it (which the Bass Fishing award lacks), but in terms of your ability as an adult to support your family, it's about the same (fishing tournament awards could probably add up to what people get from their Kollel stipend).

If you are independently wealthy, and wish to spend your time and money engaged in the Study of Torah or Competition Fishing, I wish you know ill will. However, if you are neither, and you have children, man up and think about how to support them.

Kollel -> Semicha -> Rabbinate is a COMPLETELY legitimate and wonderful career path... as the Honestly Frum discussion illustrates, it's quite lucrative. A MO Rabbi makes 80k/year + free tuition, that's a more lucrative source of employment than law/medicine for MO Jews. I assume that something similar exists in the right-wing path.

However, Kollel -> Semicha -> Kollel with Welfare benefits is ABSURD.

However, the state wants to give you money, that's the state's problem, and I'll vote against politicians who support it, but by all means, collect.

But don't show up at my doorway like you're a victim and I should give you cash.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:13 here.

Miami Al, that wasn't my point. I'm sure you have turned your academic accomplishments into a lucrative career. I never remotely implied that being on food stamps is okay because hey, there's a semicha certificate on the wall.

My sole point was that whether someone wants to sit in Kollel or explore the Yukon, as long as they are completely self sufficient, not taking advantage of government programs or anyone else for that matter, then it shouldn't bother anyone.

I do believe that when it gets to a point where one must seek charity, tuition breaks, food stamps, and the like, it's time, as you said, for them to grow up. But until then? If they can support themselves in Kollel, put their children through school, make their weddings, then what's wrong with that? If I'm completley self sufficient then who cares?

Rochel said...

Oy, a very difficult problem. My sister in Lakewood is looking for "long term support", meaning lifetime, for her marriage ready son, meaning he's 22 and on the market. Her other sons have several small children apiece, the men are 30+, and have no means of making a living other than their kollel stipend. They are on Section 8 - my nephew told me without Section 8, he and others could not afford kollel. I wonder what the poverty rate is for Jewish families living in Lakewood. It's difficult for me to see my lovely young nieces-in-law working so hard with so many small children and having so small an economic contribution from their husbands. The standard of living in Lakewood is very very modest compared to modern Orthodox or to Boro Park or Flatbush - but still, they will have to pay tuition for children soon. I am terribly upset after I visit my family. It is very disturbing to witness this decline in living standards of generations after my self reliant frum parents.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:13.
Sorry if you took offence at my comment. Please note that I refered to the "kollel system" as encouraging corruption, not any individual.

Just this weekend a friend with a marriageable daughter was contacted by a young man who was referred by a shadchan. The conversation went well until the young man stated that he would like to learn for a few years. When my friend stated that she couldn't finance any support, the conversation ended. I guess the most important qualification for this young man was the parent's bank account

Anonymous said...

There is another problem of long-term Kollel -- namely, the children don't have role models of fathers getting a degree, earning a living, and supporting their families. Also, it's one thing to say the money has run out, time to get a job, and another to be 30 something and not having any training and job experience under your belt. I don't understand why kollel can't be 1/2 day (i.e. 5-6 hours) with the other half day devoted to getting a degree and/or working (the other 5-6 hours).

Anonymous said...

Long term Kollel for the cream of the crop (top 1 - 2%) and for those who are independtly wealthy and can pay for it on their own.

Miami Al said...

Anon 9:13,
Others may have a problem with Kollel for those that can afford it. Me personally? I don't really care what people do as long as they take responsibility for it.
If learning Torah after you finish your business and family obligations at the end of the day (or in the morning before) works for you, that's awesome. I don't condemn someone that is burnt and wants to watch television to unwind before bed either. If you want to wake up early and go fishing before work, good luck, hope you catch dinner.
I do, like many here, take HUGE issue with the corrupting culture of Kollel. We take issue with Kollel sucking up tremendous amounts of communal resources (not the personal ones), and we are concerned that in the long term, this culture of Kollel forever is going to result in a big cliff as the previous generation's earning years are behind them and there is a generation with nothing coming up.
Some of us wish there was a way to run Kollel for the best of the best, but the system tends towards corruption too fast. A way for our best and brightest to become more and more knowledgeable is a good thing, and should benefit the rest of us.
However, if it's your personal hobby, then you are welcome to spend as much of your time and money on it, and you are welcome to think as highly of yourselves for it, but you aren't welcome to the fruits of other people's labor to do it.

Anonymous said...

9:13 here.

"However, if it's your personal hobby, then you are welcome to spend as much of your time and money on it, and you are welcome to think as highly of yourselves for it, but you aren't welcome to the fruits of other people's labor to do it."

100% agreed. (Aside from the thinking highly of oneself part. I don't believe someone has a right to think highly of oneself solely because they're in kollel.) I also agree with your statement about not caring as long as they take responsibility which is why I explained that when a person in Kollel has to rely on other people or programs, I believe it's time to leave kollel. But doing it all on your own? No parents, no neighbors, no charity, no government programs...then who am I bothering? To sum up, my entire point is, Kollel and 100% self sufficient? Go for it. Enjoy. Kollel and relying on everyone else? Grow up.

Anonymous said...

Miami Al raises a good point. There is an opportunity cost for the entire community. Every dollar spent on Kollel (or for high priced private school tuitions for that matter) is a dollar that can't go to help the truly needy (i.e. those who can't work), the homeless, the sick and the elderly. I'm not saying get rid of it, but carefully consider the costs and benefits and who should be doing it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 12:17, but I would like to point out that a good number of people in kollel truly believe that the world continues to exist & function because of their learning. For those people, they would dispute the notion that resources going to kolleleit are taking away from the needs of others, because their learning is sustaining and supporting others.

Lion of Zion said...


"if my husband is in Kollel, we pay full tuition, get no support, and no government programs, then how am I corrupt?"

then how do you do it? seriously. you must have some great orthonomics tips. please share!

Miami Al said...

Anon 9:13,
I don't see why not, as Tesyaa pointed out, they believe the world revolves around them, that's pretty cool. I group them in with other cults like the Flat Earthers, etc., in that as long as they don't bother me, I have no problem with them. It's not my religion, but hey, since they are Jews that keep Kashrut, I could even eat in their home despite such divergent beliefs... like the Amish, Sikhs, and other odd religions, I hope the Kollelniks contribute to the rich diversity that is America.

I'm sure I will get a diluge of comments about how I'm anti-Orthodox and should be thrown off this blog, (because I'm anti-Kollel, yet the Kollel types are anti-MO but they aren't called anti-Orthodox), but seriously, your religious beleifs are strong enough to risk poverty, malnutrition, etc., but not strong enough to read comments from a snarky Modern Orthodox Jew in Miami, FL?

Anonymous said...

Miami Al, I feel a bit like you're not fully reading what I'm writing.

Is there no exception to your rules? The world most certainly doesn't revolve around me. I am no better or worse then anyone else here. I'm not anti MO in the least, I do not risk poverty or malnutrition, and I am enjoying your snark comments.

All I'm saying is, if you are 100% self sufficient in every possible way , whether you are in Kollel or traveling the world in a canoe, then who cares? That's all.

Anonymous said...


It's not magic. I have an excellent job that I worked hard at so that I'd be promoted quickly. I put it plenty of overtime. We save our money, and have from the beginning. We do not have a credit card. My husband works during every bain hazmanim. We do not over indulge. We save money every month for emergencies. I travel across town to the cheapest supermarket once a month. It's all very logical.

As I wrote before, the day we need to ask for breaks or assistance is the day he will look for a job.

Miami Al said...

Anon 9:13,
We're in agreement, sorry, my writing today is pretty poor. I'm very glad that your family is able to support itself and I am impressed at your ability to support your family with your husband in Kollel.
I bet you he takes his time there WAY more seriously than his colleagues who are living off their father-in-laws. :)
Seriously, I'm happy for you and bear you no ill will.

Anonymous said...

Question: why would people be in kollel if they didn't think they were adding to the spirituality of the world somehow? I can think of some possibilities:

1-increasing their own private spirituality (note that the spouse or parent or stranger who is working to support him probably has less time to increase his or her own spirituality)
2-enjoy the intellectual side of learning Gemara
3-Don't want to enter the outside world (note that the spouse or parent or stranger who is working to support him probably has to enter the outside world on a regular basis)

Any other answers? I'm trying to understand the lure of the kollel life. So far, all three of my possibilities seem self-indulgent. It's less self-indulgent if the kollel man really believes that he is sustaining the world with his learning.

Bob Miller said...

The posted article says "If kollel was not just an end, but a means to a bright future, then supporting you would be a delight instead of drain."

For some kollel members, the kollel is such a means. The fact that kollel is not for everyone should not be allowed to obscure this.

Anonymous said...

Well it's not as snarky as I'd have liked but I'll take it. :)

aaron from L.A. said...

A major difference between Kollel and Medical school is that people going to medical school become doctors. Except for a minority,most people in kollel don't become what kollel is really for:to provide the community with excellent mechanchim and rabbinic leadership.More,in fact,become waiters,ie.they wait for their in-laws to leave them their money so they can continue sitting in Kollel.

Lion of Zion said...


"most people in kollel don't become what kollel is really for:to provide the community with excellent mechanchim and rabbinic leadership."

the purpose of kollel is very simple. it is a mitzvah to learn torah and kollel enables one to perform that function with ease.

depite any post facto argument to the contrary, it has nothing to do with vocational preparation (to become teachers, pulpit rabbis, camp directors, etc.). and to the contrary, i think klal is harmed by the attitude that this is the purpose of kollel.

conservative scifi said...

As someone waaay outside the Kollel system, I think there is one other benefit to some out of town Kollel(im?). Some of these offer classes to interested members of the community and opportunities to study with the members of the kollel. While they don't directly charge for classes, presumably the "donations" relate in part to usage by community members. If they are providing a service, adult jewish education, and there is enough support for the service, I don't see a problem in a "perpetual" Kollel.

gavra@work said...


But the only reason one is allowed to take tzedaka (assuming you can) in kollel is to prepare for service to the Khal. (The Kesef Mishna quoted to allow it).

And to bring Anon 9:13's argument a step further, how can you blame the boys for being able to coerce out their future in-laws into life support? It doesn't cost them or society anything (assuming they pay full tuition :)

Anonymous said...


4. the young man was brought up by parents/teachers to believe that kollel was the best/holiest/most worthwhile way to spend one's time and the young man was not given a lot of other options, such as encouragement to go to college and a good high school secular education or vocational traing.

Lion of Zion said...

conservative scifi:

"I think there is one other benefit to some out of town Kollel(im?). Some of these offer classes to interested members of the community"

hire an assistant rabbi or rabbinic intern for a fraction of the cost of a kollel


"But the only reason one is allowed to take tzedaka (assuming you can) in kollel is to prepare for service to the Khal."

kollel can prepare you to become a posek, high level maggid shiur, dayyan. how many kollel grads become any of these?

Lion of Zion said...


i was thinking of anon's no. 4 as well
i once asked my grandmother's tennant's little kid what he wants to be when he gets older. he responded, "a talmid chochem."
people don't go to kollel for the pure allure of kollel any more than people go to college for the pure allure of going to college. they go because that what they have been raised and schooled to expect.

megapixel said...

couple of comments:
"1. Your mother (and mother in law) resent having to support you"

--i will venture to say it's their own fault. They raised their children with the expectation of support/kollel so that is what they are getting. they should have told their children up front - you get support for three years, etc. whatever they find acceptable. another point that I want to bring out is that I always mention this to my MIL, who is actually in her 60s, still working and she tells me most of the women she works with (brooklyn office) are helping out married children who are WORKING and not making it.

"It is very disturbing to witness this decline in living standards "

this is a sacrifice that your relatives are making for a higher ideal, should be admired,not pitied- they are happy to do it.and i am sure they have washers/dryers and are not scrubbing laundry on the banks of the Lake.

tesyaa -- They ARE improving the world with their learning. I am sure you have heard of pirkei avot "al shlosha devorim haolem omed, al hatorah..."

and finally, as a former kollel wife and right winger (yes, I visit this blog all the time) I have to say that the idea of Kollel is still good - the problem is when we as a society push kollel for EVERYONE, even those not cut out for it.
that's all.

Anonymous said...

Megapixel - I'm not denying that Torah learning is critical to the universe. But working men who learn before/after work are also learning Torah and performing the same role.

Surely the interaction of learning and the sustenance of the universe is not based on quantity of hours spent in the bais medrash? Perhaps fewer hours of learning, performed by someone who has to sacrifice by fitting the hours into a workday somehow, is more beneficial to the survival of the universe. We do not know. So it's difficult to say that the world rests upon kollel learning, even as it rests on learning in general.

Dave said...

How about this as an alternative?

Young men and women get the education they need to support themselves and their families.

They get married only after they are capable of being self-supporting.

They have children that they can afford to feed, clothe, and educate (barring unforseen events), while still saving for emergencies and retirement. This limits the need for aid to those cases beyond our control.

When their children are grown, and self-supporting, then the fathers can enter Kollel, and enjoy their golden years with their grandchildren and a chance to sit and learn all day.

And if the children are doing especially well, they might give a bit of money to their parents to help make this possible. Note that it is easier for five adult children to help two parents than for two parents to help five adult children.

Anonymous said...

Maybe instead of Kollel being for the young, it should be for more mature people -- those who have already worked and raised a family and saved up or have a pension.

megapixel said...

tesyaa, kollel learning is not the only type of learning holding up the world.
but it is important, the level of intensity in kollel learning is different than that of a working guy learning in the evening. not to knock it - that is what my husband does and in a way I feel it is more of a sacrifice.

gavra@work said...

LOZ: All of your examples are those of "giving back to the Khal".

They are also paying jobs (maggid shiur and dayyan (very part time, usually in conjunction with a shul rabbi)), and how many posekim are not also rabbonim of shuls?

I actually like the "5 years -> Rabbinate" plan. It's the "15 years and then tuition is too costly to get a job" plan that we continue to feed that is sheer (excuse me) ludicrously .

Miami Al said...

Because the fundamental economics of the situation.

A 22 year old Kollel guy: opportunity cost of Kollel, 20k/year for unskilled labor
A 28 year ol Kollel guy: opportunity cost, 20k/year for unskilled labor
A 60 year old law partner (currently supporting 3 Kollel son-in-laws): opportunity cost for him to retire to go into Kollel: $500k/year

The only reason that Kollel is for the young is that the opportunity cost of having them in Kollel is so low. In the long term, this is insanity, since the 60 year old law partner was once a 25 year old lawyer and a 22 year old law student before that, and the Kollel guys will never be anything else.

The economic model is broken, but the economics make PERFECT sense. Better to work older white collar educated Jews to the bone until they die at their desk, since an extra year or two will product far more income, then to build a new generation of earners.

Dave said...

Al, they make terrible sense.

They only work in the short term.

Working and then Kollel for retirment works in the long term.

Miami Al said...

Correct, but human beings are notoriously short sighted and bad at extrapolating long term costs/benefits back to today. Retirements are underfunded, people are under insured, etc.
Agreed about a Retirement Kollel, especially as Retirement today is 15-25 years, and would provide a great way to keep the mind sharp.
But, with the plethora of white collar jobs, every extra month on the job at the end might have a BIG payoff compared to adding months on the beginning by postponing Kollel.
But, for those pursuing a career in the Rabbinate, I assume that parents respect the time there, similarly to parents respect the time in Medical School, Law School, etc.

Dave said...

Is this where I note that if the religious leaders for any given group have less foresight than a decent actuary, you may have an issue?

Seriously, doesn't it mean something bad if the Rabbonim either don't see the problem, or don't have the will or ability to fix it before the train wreck?

Anonymous said...

Update on robbery from Rav Shteinmen's home

Rochel said...

It's not only the "decline in living standards" that distresses me in kollel Lakewood. It is the economic poverty I witness that pains me. A wife, even a speech therapist, can't make enough to support a large family and pay tuition. The situation of the family grows more and more dire over the passing years, and I see it while the parents live in what seems to me a daze, distracted by the hubbub of family life. The old car breaks down with no one to replace it. The old house grows shabby with no one to make repairs. They can't afford to buy a newspaper - Hamodia or Yated I mean - so there is no English reading matter in the home. Everything they have is a gift from relatives or from a gemach. And the relatives can never give enough to pay day to day necessities, with a toy here and a book there. The mother gets more tired, more wiped out, going without sleep, and some mothers become secretly resentful. I see it in their eyes and in their lack of happiness, even in moments when they reveal envy unintentionally. I wish I could shake these young men of 30 plus and shake some sense into them. But that would be negiah.

Anonymous said...

Kollel for older adults seems to solve many problems. However, kollel may not only be about learning. It may be an attempt to extend the yeshiva high school years well into adulthood. A yeshiva high school student and a 30 year old kollel student have a similar amount of freedom to make their own choices; especially if the 30 year old is still dependent on parents and the yeshiva.

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for these young couples who go into Kollel because that is what they were taught, without any real understanding of what it means and how hard it can be to get a decent job or go back to school at 30 or older, particularly if you have a family. There are two solutions -- a) No one should be allowed into Kollel before age 25 and have worked full time in the real world for at least two years; or b) no one should be allowed to stay in Kollel after age 22 (other than the age 60+ guys) unless they have demonstrated they are one of top few learners and thinkers and are giving back and will give back by sharing the fruits of their studies in some fashion.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:22 - I'm not sure what you mean. I don't view a yeshiva student or a thirty-year old Kollel guy supported by parents or in-laws as having much freedom to make choices. Is that your point -- it's an escape from having to grow up and make choices?

shai said...

> I'm not denying that Torah learning is critical to the universe.

Please provide some basis for this utterly absurd statement.

If you want to say that you value torah learning, that's fine.

If you want to claim that it enhances your life, I'll trust you.

If you believe that you will earn spiritual brownie points for learning torah, I won't disabuse of the notion.

But how, pray tell, can it rationally be claimed that Torah learning is critical to the universe? How exactly? Do you think the universe will implode if there's no torah study occurring?

Anonymous said...

"Is that your point -- it's an escape from having to grow up and make choices?"

Not an escape from making choices, but to prevent a young adult from making choices.

Chaim B. said...

>>>Do you think the universe will implode if there's no torah study occurring?

"The truth without any doubt is that if, in the entire world, from one end to the other, there was ever even a single moment in which Torah was not being studied, the entire universe and all of its worlds in an instant would cease to exist, G-d forbid."
R' Chaim Volozhiner, Nefesh haChaim 4:11
R' Chaim Volozhiner devotes the 4th section of his sefer to explaining the power of Torah; you need that background to understand how these ideas make sense.

Miami Al said...

Chaim B,
Accepting your belief in that concept as literal, doesn't that undermine the very purpose of Kollel?
Kollel presupposed that a place for married men to learn, with a stipend from donors, allows them to dedicate their life to Torah study.
These institutions are predominately in NYC and Jerusalem, with some throughout the United States and Europe.
If the concern is that a single moment will pass without Torah Study, wouldn't it make more sense to shut the Kollelim down? Our younger, single students engage in Torah study during the school day, and our working men learn in the mornings and evenings. Kollel learners appear to be redundant, since the young Bachurim are already learning in those hours. Further, Kollel encourages people to congregate in areas of an established Jewish community. If the goal is, Torah study of every instance of time, the goal should be to disperse Jews, Chabad style, where they could learn in different time zones, to make sure that Torah is always being learned.
Defend Kollel all you want, but preservation of the existence of the universe seems like a poor argument.

Chaim B. said...

The goal of kollel is not to sustain the universe -- I was merely pointing out that such a belief has more than a few sources to back it up and should not be taken lightly.

The justification for kollel is torah lishma, which R' Chaim Volozhiner explains at length in that section as well. To ask why we need kollel presupposes that there is some other, higher aim, purpose, or value which provides meaning or utility for Torah. This is not the case at all, and the very questions demeans Torah. Torah is the highest aim, that which gives meaning and purpose to the rest of creation.

Chaim B. said...

Learning Torah is measured not just in quanitity, but in quality as well. The argument that kollel diverts resources that could be used to meet other, more pressing communal needs presupposes a value judgment about what needs are more pressing than others. Value judgments are not the domain of economics; they are in the domain of halacha. For example, R' Moshe has a tshuvah about whether a kollel or kindergarten should be funded when $ are short. Armchair theorizing cannot replace the shulchan aruch.

Anonymous said...

Learning Torah is measured not just in quanitity, but in quality as well.

Chaim B: off topic, but you might be able to answer a question I have. In all the massive amounts of learning that are b"h taking place in the world today, are there any major chidushim being made (along the lines of new & groundbreaking research in the academic world)? Or is it more a passing down of subject matter that has been codified and can't be added to?

anon1 said...

Torah learning is critical to the universe achieving its purpose. What good is a human race that fails to be close to HaShem for lack of Torah learning, and what good then is the earth and its contents that sustain the human race?

Chaim B. said...

>>>are there any major chidushim being made

It takes a certain creative talent to be mechadesh, but I can't imagine someone learning seriously for a long time not having any new insight. There are people saying shiurim, writing tshuvos, speaking about machshava, and writing seforim all the time with new ideas. Of course, like in any research area, the average "doctoral level" student is building on the work done before him and adding a small measure of nuance or new perspective. Truly revolutionary thinkers come along once in a generation. There are hundreds of students of physics, but only one Einstein or Feynman. Simialrly, there was only one Chofetz Chaim, one Brisker Rav, one R' Ahron Kotler.

Zach Kessin said...

There are hundreds of students of physics, but only one Einstein or Feynman

True someone of that caliber only comes along once in a great while, though I can name half a dozen of them from the 20th century (Dirac, Fermi, Feynman, Chandra, Edington etc) But every working scientist is going to be publish new material on a regular basis or he won't have any funding or a job.

Chaim B. said...

The reason scientists publish is because in academia your reputation depends on it - "publish or perish." There are only a limited number of professorships and research grants and papers, conference appearances, etc. are the standard by which applicants are measured. In the Torah world there are different standards For example, R' Chaim Brisker, surely the greatest mind on the last 200 years, wrote next to nothing in his lifetime. R' Soloveitchik held that torha sheba'al peh is still largely an oral tradition and therefore he did not publish much in his lifetime either.

Anonymous said...

Gavra@work, I am a young frum woman who went to a very right wing seminary, and judging by what I have seen in my friends, "buying into" the standard shpiel of what a bais yaakov girl should do with her life is determined by a. the girl's highschool (remember just because she went to what you think is an MO school it doesn't mean her teachers will hold your hashkafas) and b. the parents' expectations and willingness to enable their child. Sem is not what makes BY girls what they are. Yes, you may be MO, but if your daughter comes back from sem and wants to marry a kollel guy, you can choose whether or not to support her. If you do choose to support her, you can't complain. If you don't, and the couple make it on their own, then that's their choice and at least they're not draining your resources.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:36 - in theory I agree with your points 100%. In practice, some parents find it hard to see their children really struggling, even if it is the children's choice to be in kollel. I have heard stories of tiny grandchildren coming to grandparents and complaining that their feet hurt because their shoes are too small. Dollars to doughnuts, the toddlers' parents told them to go tell Grandma that they can't afford shoes that fit. But I have heard that it is very hard to leave your grandchildren suffering. So even the most resolute parents might find themselves paying for everyday items (not special gifts) that their children should be paying for themselves.

Please do not tell me that you are in kollel and you don't do this - I know that. I know that not every family does this, and I also know that this could happen in non-kollel families. But there are subtle dynamics that can weaken one's resolution not to support grown, married children.

Miami Al said...


I'm NOT a Kollel family, I'm NOT poor, and my parents often buy the kids shoes... :) I just wish I had a video of my daughter conning my father into multiple pairs of little pink toddler shoes... :)

We've gone through good times and bad times, and at ALL times, my parents have indulged and spoiled the children, perhaps with things that you "think" we should have done.

The role of grandparents is to indulge the grandchildren, even if it is for staples. Sure, the family could buy $10 shoes at Wal-mart, but why if Grandma/Grandpa are HAPPY to buy them expensive shoes elsewhere?

Communicate your values to your children, and that includes where you put your money. If you subsidize a Kollel family, clearly you value it. If you pay for college, you value that. If you pay for loafing around aimlessly... well...

Anonymous said...

Al - absolutely: my parents buy me staples all the time. But I don't ASK them to. And I don't put my kids up to begging for anything.

My mother just happens to enjoy buying a dozen bottles of detergent or 4 boxes of cereal in a great sale. She can't use them herself, so she brings them to my house...

Anonymous said...

"There is another problem of long-term Kollel -- namely, the children don't have role models of fathers getting a degree, earning a living, and supporting their families."(2-16-10, 11:45 A.M.

To me, this is may be a bigger problem than the economic issues. The children do have male role models; someone who disdains work, looks to marry rich, allows elderly parents to work past retirement age to support him. The culture of dependency may well be stronger that the culture of Torah in future generation. And that would be a disaster.

Anonymous said...

I am not an observant Jew but worked as a school psychologist at a yeshiva for 5 years. Many of the students at our school who made the decision to pursue the Kollel life were actually in the bottom quartile of their graduating class in both the Judaic and secular classes. The Kollel in our area had no problem accepting them despite their weak academic skills, and this Kollel has no problem sending out requests to the general Jewish population for scholarship support for these students. I personally feel that most of these students knew on some level that they could not get a decent job and made this choice the avoid making some hard decisions, like perhaps going into a vocational training program. Keeping up appearances seemed to be the operating factor, and I my job was threatened by several parents when I suggested that their sons take their time and explore their options. The administration also "ordered" me to keep my opinions to myself, which prompted my leaving.
Happy Purim,
Dr. Aaron

Eliyahoo William Dwek said...

Any man who chooses to be a ‘rabbi’ (‘true teacher’ of Torah) or a ‘dayan’ (‘judge’), or a ‘mekubal’ (‘kabbalist’) should be doing so Voluntarily. Out of his pure love for Hashem and the Torah. And his Ahavat Yisrael.

If he refuses to do community work voluntarily, and wants and accepts payment for everything he does, such a man should not be leading a community. He should get a job and earn a living. He can collect milk bottles or clean the windows. That is what is called ‘earning a living’.

Torah is learned, studied and taught: out of Love. Voluntarily. But the ‘rabbis’ have turned the Torah into their ‘Profession’, from which they earn money.

We are commanded in the Shema to:
‘LOVE Hashem, your G-d, WITH ALL YOUR HEART, and with all your soul and with all your might.’

‘VE’AHAVTA et Hashem Elokecha BECHOL LEVAVECHA uvechol nafshecha uvechol meodecha.’ (Devarim, Vaethanan, 6:4-5)

Is the ordinary man or woman PAID to pray to Hashem, or to say some words of Torah? No. Has veshalom! But the rabbis are. These men can give ‘lovely’ shiurim that they have rehearsed. But they would not give a shiur without being paid for it.

The true hachamim and rabbis of old, all actually worked at proper jobs and professions.

Wake up! Even a little child could have worked this out. These salaried men can never truly stand for the Torah, because in a case of conflict between a correct course of action according to the Torah, and the rabbi or rav’s pocket – his pocket and position will always prevail.

Pirkei Avot: (2:2)
“Raban Gamliel beno shel Rabi Yehuda HaNassi omer: yafeh talmud Torah im derech eretz, sheyegiat shenaihem mashkachat avon. Vechol Torah she’ein imah melacha sofa betailah ve’goreret avon. Vechol haoskim im hatzibbur yiheyu imahem leShem Shamayim……”

“Rabban Gamliel, the son of Rabi Yehuda HaNassi, said: It is good to combine Torah study with a worldly occupation, for working at them both drives sin from the mind. All Torah without an occupation will in the end fail and lead to sin. And let all who work for the community do so for the sake of Heaven………”

Eliyahoo William Dwek said...

When ‘dayanim’, ‘rabbis’ and false ‘mekubalim’ use the Torah for their own power and commercial profit, this behaviour is abhorrent.

No other ‘rabbi’ will ever act against another ‘rabbi’ - even when he knows his colleague is clearly desecrating the Torah. Each rabbi is only worried about losing his own position.

Therefore, the ‘rabbi’, ‘dayyan’ or false ‘mekubal’ (‘kabbalist’) will never effect justice. And he will never truly stand for the Torah or the Honour of Hashem. His pocket will always prevail.

The Torah must never be used for commercial gain and profit. Amm israel can only be lead by those who have the necessary love and respect of Hashem and the Torah.