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Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Disconnect

Rabbi Berel Wein wrote a JPost column this past week called THE DISCONNECT about the widening disconnect between leadership and the vast bulk of the Orthodox population. He points to a few issues and asks the populace to demand more from "those who claim the ability and knowledge to lead us." Quite frankly, I'm not certain which leaders Rabbi Wein thinks the populace should be demanding more from. What I am certain of is that there is a disconnect, especially from crowned leadership (that Americans are increasingly turning to, bypassing the LOR-Local Orthodox Rabbi) and even from the local Rabbinate who aren't particularly subject to the same demands.

There isn't much in the article that I want to blog about from the article, except to point out something that I'm not certain many 'leaders' are willing to admit (perhaps even to themselves? Leadership of some schools will tell people that the tuition burden is mostly shared even though there is much evidence to say that this is not the case). So it is nice to see some confirmation of what many in the populace believe to be true vis a vis tuition:

The tuition rates for attending Jewish schools are rapidly reaching the breaking point. A small percentage of parents – those who pay full or almost full tuition at schools – are subsidizing the rest of the parent body who cannot afford the astronomical amounts that are termed full tuition. But that group of people – those who can and do pay full tuition – is a rapidly diminishing breed. Instead of addressing this problem – the true time bomb that threatens the future of Torah education – we spread our wealth so thin that we are unable to help the situation.

An issue that Jewish Worker blogs about this week demonstrates this vast disconnect is regarding monetary needs/tzedakah and just how vast and broad the need is. Shas is working on a plan to provide life insurance under a group plan to kollel students. A monthly premium would be deducted from their checks to provide for this need. One would think such an idea would be embraced wholeheartedly. But, as per the Israeli Mishpacha, Rav Shteineman has come out against this plan claiming that it is the zechut of tzedaka to widows and orphans is saving the generation from destruction. As Jewish Worker rightfully points out, even where life insurance could take over from tzedakah, there is no shortage of need and suffering in the Chareidi community. Yet the answer to hishtadult is "no", which Jewish Worker points out is an answer of "let them suffer so we can do a mitzvah" because the needs of the community are growing exponentially.

Dr. E over at Cross-Currents, in response to Rabbi Wein's article, notes the following regarding the disconnect. . . and (dan l'chaf zechut), I can only conclude that Universally recognized great Torah minds are simply shielded from the realities of those that they lead, even if their pictures are plastered on proclamations and advertisements for certain tzedaka organizations. The math is staggering:

Focusing on that, how did it become that way? One obvious culprit is a creation called Askanim. Ma rabu maasecha Hashem! These are the gatekeepers and social engineers who are both the diagnosticians of the ills of our community as well as the technicians who deliver the therapy. They know what is best for the masses and exploit the name recognition of great people, filtering information in both directions. Believe it or not, here was a time in history when great Rabbinic luminaries answered their own phones, opened their own mail, read newspaper, and penned their own signatures after carefully reading the paragraphs above it. But, more importantly, they lived in the communities for whom they led, paskened for, and inspired. (It would make a great doctoral dissertation to pinpoint the year and place when the period of the Acharonim transitioned into the era of the Askanim.) While we have some great Poskim with encyclopedic minds covering the breadth and depth of Torah, they are prevented from developing the other main attribute of previous Gedolei Hador, which is “getting it”. As a result, we have a disconnect that spans not only across oceans but also across the street within one’s neighborhood. It is certainly possible to have Kavod Hatorah, while at the same time stipulating that thanks to the Askanim, many of the Torah giants should be seen in more limited roles.

Speaking of the math, following the passing of Rabbi Nosson Finkel zt"l, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir, there is a campaign underway to close the $10,000,000 debt (yes, 10 mil) the yeshiva has. As per Jewish Worker, who once again pulls from Mishapcha (English version), for 5 straight months, Rebbes have not been paid, nor have kollel avreichim. Even if the money is raised to pay off this debt, what of the future operating costs? And, unless one believes the tzedakah pocket is unlimited, what of the other institutions for which might ordinarily be recipients of tzedakah? (Divrei Chaim makes this point) While I believe the free market will sort much of this out, I don't think like the idea of collapse, and with this type of debt is seems that something will come crashing down. I think we'd all prefer to see a more natural consolidation. But the numbers just look bleak.

Rafi at Life in Israel is reporting on desperation from selling baby naming rights to the highest bidder to ongoing, long term theft where the culprit was finally caught: an avreich stealing baby formula because he doesn't have what to feed his 5 children. Chazal's words are being brought to life and it is just painful.

Many turn to a popular Rabbi for advice on life issues (I know a number of followers in my own back yard and I believe the following to be quite large). In a column regarding overwhelming wedding expenses, the advice given is "just pray" and leave the 300,000 shekel debt to Hashem.

Avremel, you don’t make weddings, Hashem does!”

“Reb Lazer, that’s either Baal Teshuva talk or Breslever talk. We don’t think like that. We have to raise the money ourselves!”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Here’s a man of 48, born into a Chassidic family; he learned in cheder, in lower yeshiva, in upper yeshiva, and then for another seven years in rabbinical kollel before he had to go to work to pay his bills. It was pitiful to see such a person with beard, long sidecurls, a long coat and Chassidic knickers with black socks living a life completely without Hashem and devoid of emuna.
Avremel had tears in his eyes and his upper lip was quivering. “Where in the world am I going to get 300,000 shekels in 7 months? It’s impossible!”

Li hakesef ve’li hazahav, ne’um Hashem!” I quoted the Prophet who tells us that Hashem has all the gold and silver. If we need money, we go to Him. “Why not try talking to Hashem?”

Where is the yashrut? How destructive is this type of behavior in families and when entering into shidduchim? Yet here is a platform to speak about yashrut, about hishtadult, about being reasonable, and the answer is prayer, and only prayer?

(As one of my valued commentators points out, I am being a bit unfair in my remarks regarding hishtadult. So, I want to clarify the thought. The father is absolutely doing his hishtadult vis a vis effort and work. He is anything lazy holding down more jobs than I ever care to hold down. The effort that I was referring to was not in terms of working more, but in terms of extracting himself from a lifestyle that can simply no longer be maintained and further promises that should not and cannot be made. The point has been reached where this father simply cannot obligate him to pay another bill. The point has been reached where the father must extradite himself from the current situation of supporting growing families. Working yourself to death will eventually leave all those who depend on him in an untenable situation. Hashem does make weddings, but to imply that Hashem will drop 300,000 shekel from the sky--that is approximately $79,000 as per my foreign currency calculator--is not leadership, nor is it a proper way to conduct one's dealings ever! One article I see tells me that average Israeli salary is approximately 95,000 shekel per year. The father is already working more than one job. How is this advice?)

Because I'm out of time, I will deal with another disconnect issue soon.


Anonymous said...

It's "populace". Sorry, had to correct it since you used it so many times.

Anonymous said...

Leadership isn't inherited in today's world, it's earned. What have these supposedly great rabbis done to earn a position of leadership? What have they done to merit followers? What have they done to be worthy of people hanging on their every word?

The onus is on the person who wants to be a leader, not on the simple Jew who struggles to understand why some rabbi won't help him or provide proper guidance.

We're perhaps too cynical of our secular leaders. We look critically and skeptically at everything a politician says, even when it's not appropriate. Yet, when it comes to our religious leaders, it's disrespectful and heretical to question or critique.

The comments in the previous thread about the SIM card are illuminating. The rabbi doesn't even begin to understand the technology he's paskening on. But, moreso, the questioner has a real chutzpah in borrowing his friend's phone, breaking it, and then insisting it's the friend's fault for not warning him it could break in the first place. Yet, despite the obvious chutzpah, and the obvious answer to such chutzpah, the rabbi proceeds down a long-winded halachic pilpul to arrive at an answer that is not only wrong, but should have put this nogoodnik in his place to begin with.

Yet, this rabbi was praised for his scholarship and sharp mind. Very sad.

sam said...

In addition there is the inordinate influence that the rich have in our community.
In modern western society there is a middle class that collectivly have an influence.
In our communities the rabbonim, organisations and community are so dependent on the wealthy that their agendas literally run the place.
This has unhealthy implications for the fabric of our society.
I wonder if this is a topic for a future blog?

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

Sephardi Lady, I think you slight misrepresented Lazer Brody's advice. You took the excerpt too far out of context. The guy in trouble already works three jobs. Telling him has to make an effort is superfluous and insulting. Mind you, maybe he could use advice how to make a better effort. Lazer is chiding him because after and along with making the human efforts that he does - he is leaving God out of the picture. Along with all his hard work, the guy should be praying. Isn't that what the Torah tells us in so many ways? We have to make appropriate efforts and work hard; but we mustn't ever leave God out of the picture, because all our sustenance still is given by Him.

Mind you, I would have said that this guy is the victim of a sick and injured society that can't sustain itself - even by the Torah's terms. He shouldn't be paying the mortgages for three children (with a fourth mortgage on the way); and his wife shouldn't be wearing a $1000 wig that they can't afford. But niether R. Lazer nor his unfortunate friend can see that therein lies a big piece of the problem.

Anonymous said...

One way to stop some of the nonsense is to stop the money flow. I had a debate about what would happen if you eliminated the concept of paying shadchanus. As you may know, the price goes up the older the client gets. This creates more and more financial hardships for families. People charge upwards of $3000!
My points were:
1. eliminating the monopoly.
2. eliminating social engineering
3. eliminating a level of financial hardship for a non guaranteed (and seemingly failing) service.
4. Possibly restoring some social normalcy

rosie said...

This reminds me of a old car redemption program, "cash for clunkers." I redeemed a clunker that barely made it to the car lot but as long as it drove, it got redeemed. The reason that it reminds me of cash for clunkers is because the cars were driven into the ground before the government took action to get those gas guzzlers off the road and get us drivers to buy something else.
The same will be with all of the situations in the frum community. When there is no money for something, that thing won't be able to happen. If Hashem wants it to happen, the money will appear.

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

For some reason, the "Israeli" Gedolim have been accepted over the American ones (probably due to the "year in Israel" concept). That makes the Israeli mehalech more accepted, but without the "Histapkus" of the Mea Shearim Jew (who has 10 children in a two bedroom apartment). At the same time, The Mea Shearim Yid is losing his sense of Histapkus, after seeing all the Americans in his yeshiva (both from America & second generation) and wanting what they have. Marry that with the Army & the inability to get a real job (for the Israelis) or Tuition (for the Americans), and you have the current economic situation.

JS said...

More on the misogynism and disconnect that Rabbi Wein mentions (for some reason, when he does it it's profound and insightful and a wake-up call, but when anyone else does it it's bashing and hateful and spiteful).

Women in Boro Park want to form a women's division of Hatzalah to help in cases of labor, childbirth, and other gynecological medical situations. They are, of course, being rebuffed by the rabbis and other men in charge despite the fact that other Hatzalah branches have such a division and the fact that apparently many women are incredibly embarrassed at having a group of men help them in these situations.

Some quotes:
"There are strict rules between men and women, except in the case of Hatzolah," she said. "The problem is that any number of men might respond to a call on Hatzolah." That has been a source of "tremendous embarrassment" for some women, she said.

"It's quite unfortunate that it's been the case when seven or eight men have responded to a woman in labor call," she said. "If birth is imminent, that's how many people are watching. And it's a very, very troubling situation for a woman."

She said a core group of about five women had spearheaded the proposal and that it is drawing wider support. She emphasized that in no way did they want to or expect to work alongside the men of Hatzolah, suggesting they could have their own ambulances available to them.

"We don't want to be socializing with the men of Hatzolah," she said.


"I really haven't talked to the people. I don't know what they want exactly," he said, adding that Hatzolah's four-member rabbinical board released an internal memo saying that they should not engage in discussions on the matter.

He said a similar proposal had been rejected about 25 years ago — and that nothing had changed since then. "We have an internal statement basically saying we are continuing our policy," he said.

Heshy Jacobs, a member of Chevra Hatzalah's executive board, told the popular Orthodox Jewish blog Vos Iz Neias that adding women could affect response time.

"There are many things at which women are superior, but when it comes to speed and physical strength, which are both of the essence in a medical emergency, it is a proven fact that men have an advantage," Jacobs told VIN News in September. "Additionally we already have systems in place to get our responders in place as quickly as possible. ...By introducing women into the scenario, you are adding another layer to the process and you are talking about a situation where a delay of seconds can literally cost lives."

Dave said...

But, as per the Israeli Mishpacha, Rav Shteineman has come out against this plan claiming that it is the zechut of tzedaka to widows and orphans is saving the generation from destruction.

This would explain the apparent requirement to shun both vegetables and exercise. After all, those widows and orphans don't come from nowhere...

Shoshana Z. said...

Wow, Berel Wein's article was fantastic. Right on the mark. When I look around and see both the extreme wealth and the poverty that my neighborhood contains, it is hard not to agree with his assessments. More kiruv and more competing programs than anyone could ever fathom to be necessary. Schools that the average family cannot afford without other major financial consequences. Such a mess. But systemic changes will always be blocked by the people who benefit from the current system. Little by little, individual families will have to break off from the expected choices and blaze new trails.

Shoshana Z. said...

Please read the above blog post. Especially interesting considering the usual ta'am of that website.

CJ Srullowitz said...

Shoshana, please refer to the rosh yeshiva as "Rabbi Berel Wein." Thank you.

rosie said...

Here is an article about someone wiping out half of Mir Yeshiva's debt. If Hashem wants something to continue, it continues. Probably now that someone came forward with the money, others will as well.

Benav said...

It is always appropriate to daven to Hashem, and it may be ok to ask Him for a nais.

But it seems like gaiva for people to expect and demand nissim, which includes basing one's planning on the expectation that Hashem will provide a nais.

Those who advise people to do so are being irresponsible, and it appears to be based on a theology that the rishonim that I am aware of (e.g. Ramban, Rambam) would strongly disapprove.

rosie said...

Benav, please tell that to Obama. Our country is $15,000,000,000,000 in debt and we spent the money somewhere (probably China, Iraq, and Afghanistan) and I don't know whose theology the US was following when they did it. They probably feel that some future generation will pay the debt. We spent without knowing where the money would come from.
Hashem wants the Yidden to study Torah, so He has a partnership with us and will provide a means. This does not mean that 100% of Jewish men should learn full time but those who don't try to help those who do (Yissacher/Zevulun partnership). We can't give up on Torah study but we do need to influence others to put Torah study and Torah living ahead of expensive frivolous pursuits.

Avi said...


I understand your point, but leave the macroeconomics to others. China? You're confusing the trade deficit with debt. Iraq & Afghanistan? Yes, those were/are certainly expensive, but not nearly as expensive as entitlement spending over the same period.

rosie said...

Probably Medicaid, food stamps, government housing (if that is what you are referring to as entitlement spending) has cost the government billions but trillions? How does a country pay a dept in the trillions?
The whole point that I am trying to make is that sometimes a person, group, country or business has to plunge on through and incur dept. The US will have to curb spending and find a source to pay the debt or someone else will own our country someday.
With regard to Judaism, we have existed for over 3000 years and Hashem has not allowed us to be wiped out. Are we to say that if it becomes too expensive that we should not continue?

rosie said...

apparently social programs are a large part of the problem but spending by banks appeared larger.

SJ said...

Critiquer said...

When you say "extracting himself from a lifestyle" what do you mean? Using birth control? Dropping out of his social group? Having his Chassidic kids marry themselves off? If the parents don't contribute towards the wedding expenses, nobody will do a shidduch with them. If it's not a community-wide effort, what do you want from this one man?

As for your saying Hashem makes weddings, a problem I have seen on this website repeatedly is that it (posts and comments) either completely ignores statements in Chazal and Rishonim or denigrates them. A reader of this website does not get the feeling that participants believe that Hashem designates what you will earn on Rosh Hashana, as the Gemara says, nor that 40 days before a person is born, it is decreed whether he will be rich or poor, etc. as the Gemara says. On the contrary. The feeling is, "kochi v'otzem yadi osa li es ha'chayil ha'zeh" - my power and the strength of my arm made me this wealth. What Chovos Ha'Levavos says in Shaar Ha'Bitachon goes unacknowledged. Sounds like the only bitachon most people here have is in working, keeping expenses down, having few kids, strongly considering taking them out of yeshiva to save money, and mocking anybody who does differently.

Orthonomics said...

Critiquer--Please do not put words in my mouth or pontificate about "extradite" means. The bottom line is that you do not, under any circumstances, promise what you cannot deliver.

This father cannot deliver an apartment and I don't think it is right to make a shidduch on such a promise. What happens if the money doesn't materialize?

You are the one saying no one will marry such a child. I believe Hashem makes shidduchim and we don't need to kill ourselves in the process of doing our hishtadlut.

Critiquer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Orthonomics said...

Critiquer-I'm sorry you removed your post. Yes, I think the father needs to work with leadership and/or find a social crowd that will accept him in his current position (unable to buy an apartment/provide support).

And the younger kids might well have to go a different path and start working earlier.

When you can't pay the bills, you can't pay the bills. That doesn't mean that one doesn't believe Hashem doesn't designate their parnassah, it just means that we don't spend what we don't have. If a great investment appears, e.g., and the money follows, then a father has the money and can do with it has he pleases. If he doesn't have the money, he shouldn't be promising it out.

I simply don't believe in this way of managing money and it has nothing to do with believing Hashem designates parnassah.

Critiquer said...

I removed my post to reword it. You posted before I had a chance to put this up.

What words were put into your mouth? I asked you questions. Your answer is, don't make promises you can't fulfill.

I didn't say no one would marry his child. I said there are social norms in his circle and you want him to ignore them. Your most recent comment says it again, he should defy the norms of his circle and so should his children. I believe along with you that Hashem makes shidduchim and we don't need to kill ourselves over it, but hearing that on this blog sounds hollow to me. All of a sudden, bitachon! Hashem makes zivugim, have bitachon and it will work out!

I don't hear that call for bitachon elsewhere on your blog. Rather, I read about the urgency of getting a good education, writing a good resume, getting a good job, putting money into savings, and cutting corners on chinuch (ex. charter schools). According to the Shaar Ha'Bitachon, NONE of those efforts produce parnassa. Hard to digest, eh? One needs to do things in the normal manner, aka hishtadlus, but one needs to believe that there is no cause and effect. Hishtadlus needs to be done but it does not lead to income. Income is from G-d, not from our efforts.

I wonder how many readers of this blog believe the Gemara that says that Shabbos, yom tov and chinuch expenses are not included in the parnassa designated for a person on Rosh Hashana.

There are halachos about not promising what you can't fulfill. A call for consulting with one's rav about what commitments one can make would be appropriate. I haven't heard that from you.

Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, a revered rabbi in ultra-Orthodox circles in Israel is reported to have said that those who encourage young men to make financial demands of potential in-laws are “rotzchim” (murderers) since they induce the kallahs‘ parents to jeopardize their health and future.

So there are chareidi rabbis who agree with your stance about promises. Hearing it from those who espouse bitachon across the board (as opposed to 'selective bitachon') is more credible, IMO.

Orthonomics said...

The man should absolutely:

**Consult a Rav for advice and now.

**Go back to the drawing table and be honest with the mechutanim about the situation.

**Have a plan going forward for the remaining single children.

Yes, more leadership is needed.

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