Thursday, November 15, 2007

Better to be Supported by the Community and Welfare?

Continuing on with the Yated Readers Write regarding frum finances, check out the following. I'm not sure what to say to sum it up. Basically, this kollel wife does not want her husband to leave the confines of kollel, and is in a catch 22 because if her husband left and they lost their welfare, well. . . . . they will probably be worse off. Personally, I'm not all that sympathetic. I'm actually more sympathetic to the Rebbe's wife. At least he was willing to give earning a try. My comments are in orange.


Dear Editor,

I was very pleased to see the financial crisis discussed in Avrohom Birnbaum’s article several weeks go and the subsequent letters to the editor on the same topic. It’s given me the push to write to you about this issue, which I’ve been wanting to do for a while.

I’d like to talk about our experience as a family in a part of the population no one has written about yet.

My husband has been learning for 12 years, not exclusively, but at least part-time. (Most of the years it was full time.) [Twelve years post marriage or post high school?]

Even when we first got married, we did not receive any regular support from either set of parents. It was simply impossible for them. Yet, we both felt strongly that the type of family we wanted to establish was based on my husband remaining in yeshiva as long as possible, and, after that, staying in the “yeshiva environment” when employment became necessary. This is not chas v’shalom to denigrate anyone who doesn’t do this; everyone has their own needs, talents and tafkid. However, for me, this was such a strong feeling that I could not bear to have it any other way (although this was not the derech that either of us grew up with in our own families).

I always pushed - no, encouraged - my husband to stay in yeshiva. He didn’t need to be pushed. He always wants to learn and feels awful on a day during bain hazemanim when he barely gets to learn because he is so busy with the kids, etc [I find this comment sad. Spending time with children, especially in today's environment, is so important. One would hope a father would welcome the opportunity to reconnect with the children. One wonders if the husband share the same feeling when he has to engage in another mitzvah that takes away from learning]. But sometimes he’d wonder if it was “time to go to work” because of parnassa. I’d tell him no, because:

a) I can’t bear to have him go into a non-yeshiva environment, [Sounds like chinuch is not even a consideration].
b) Even more than that, I know he could never manage in such an environment (he cannot bear to be exposed to the outside influences; plus, he is quiet,shy, and not a go-getter), and [My husband also. Fortunately there is work for those who like to sit at a desk in relative isolation].
C) I know that it wouldn’t help financially anyway. He’d never earn the$100,000 (now I read that it’s more like $200,000 - I’m shocked) needed to support a large family, k”ah. What would happen is that we’d lose Medicaid and Section 8 and be worse off than before, chas v’shalom. I’d rather be poor and in kollel, than just plain poor! [Perhaps there are two Torahs, and I missed out on learning the basics of the other one. Don't we learn that we should make our Shabbat like a weekday so as to not rely on the community? Don't we learn that there is dignity and work? And what about starting somewhere? So you can't envision yourself earning $100,000? So what. What if someone approached learning the same way, e.g., I will never make it through Shas, so I won't even get started?].

Boruch Hashem, we have wonderful shalom bayis, which is not affected by our finances. At the moment, we have six children, kein yirbu, ranging in age from 1 1/2 - 10. About half a year ago, my husband started doing some work in a yeshiva in the mornings, with his kollel no longer being able to pay him the relatively high salary which they had been providing. For a while, he was teaching Gemara to beginners for one seder and learning one seder, but that program ended. Our debts - especially our tuition bills – skyrocketed. [I wonder why the tuition bills skyrocketed when the husband's job ended. More children in school? Or was he receiving a significant tuition benefit for teaching one seder. Or is the writer just putting in a fact unconnected to her husband's job?]

At the moment, we weren’t doing any better than before. Boruch Hashem, we don’t have credit cards. Somehow, we knew never to start up with them. (Rabbi Birnbaum’s article really reinforced that!)

Over the summer, we had no income at all. I began work at a different school this fall, and my husband joined a different kollel in the afternoon and got a new position in a different yeshiva. B’chasdei Hashem, someone gave us a few thousand dollars that got us through the summer. Truthfully, Hashem always helps us, and we have never starved or had our electricity turned off. He always sends us some form of income to get through whatever situation arises and to provide us with what we really need. It’s like living with the monn in the midbar.

What I’d like to bring out most of all is the astronomical cost of living today and the impossibility of earning the required amounts (assuming you’re not a doctor, lawyer or high-powered businessman). [For once can we stop this assumption that doctors, lawyers, and businessman are rolling in dough. I, for one, know that the young ones, especially, are rolling in a lot of debt. And nobody thinks to give them a few thousand dollars, and they don't qualify for welfare, nor do they tend to receive much in the way of tuition breaks. I'm pulling my hair out. We are all in this boat TOGETHER: doctors, lawyers, businessmen, accountants, teachers, kolleleit, and what have you. And if you marry young and are blessed with children, especially that many children, you are going to be up to your eyeballs].

Of our six children, five are already in school. Tuition is a minimum of $3,000 each (in our community. In many other areas, that is considered a bargain!) [You bet that is a bargain. $15,000 won't even put one child into high school in some communities]. Boruch Hashem, we have help for the older girls’ tuition (3rd and 5th grade) but are left with $1,000 a month in tuition to pay. (I know that many people have to pay much more, but for me, this is my entire salary!)

That leaves the amount my husband earns from his morning yeshiva position and afternoon kollel to support 8 people. Combined, it equals a little more than 1/10 of the $200,000 figure suggested as being needed to comfortably support a family.

That is, of course, where Medicaid, food stamps, and Section 8 are so extremely helpful. We are very grateful for these programs. But they aren’t without their drawbacks. There is always a fear of chillul Hashem, and a certain amount of discomfort when you are among people who think it’s wrong to take these things. But what’s the choice? Food for our family (including diapers, etc.) is $1,200 a month [I'm sure this could be cut down a bit]. After food stamps are gone each month, we struggle to find hundreds of dollars to buy food and other necessities for the rest of the month. At present, we owe our grocery store about $3,000. Sometimes we can’t put anymore on the bill and we wonder how we will buy food. Many times, we write head-checks [I've never heard this term outside of frum circles. I believe the terminology is post-dated checks. Those who write post-dated checks should know they are responsible for the funds when they write the checks], but sometimes too many go through when we’re not expecting it, and the bank pays them but charges us $30 for each check.

We’ve lost a few hundred dollars at a shot like this, which is really depressing, because it’s money going straight into the garbage. Then, if we borrow $500 from a gemach to put into our account, it’s still basically at zero, leaving the door open for a repeat scenario. (Since we don’t have credit cards, we have no credit history and can’t get overdraft protection. But what should we do? Not buy diapers?) [Perhaps].

I have a theory that it used to be acceptable to be poor and it was kind of‘socially acceptable.’ Now it’s certainly not. For better or worse, there are societal norms, which you just have to conform to.

For example, you have to have electricity, gas and phone service (which obviously were considered luxuries 100 years ago). This costs us about $300 a month all together. The kids have to go to school, and need school supplies, uniforms and snacks. The school requests book fees, nit fees, and arts & crafts fees. My girls were supposed to bring in a total of $65 this week, between all of the them. [I think the nickle and diming parents is unacceptable. But, when you have a number of parents barely paying tuition, the schools don't have a whole lot to operate with and I think this is how some schools squeeze non-tuition dollars out of parents]. It isn’t acceptable anymore not to have money. It’s just expected that you have at least amounts like that, or $25 to tip each counselor in camp [Camp? I believe you stated that you were both out of work for the summer]. But what if you don’t? What if you have zero cash in the house, have run out of checks, and can’t afford to order more? (Never mind the chance that there won’t be money to cover the check when it goes through!) [I hear the pain, I really do. But, so many of our grandparents, great-grandparents came here with nothing and took meager wages and built small fortunes. It seems we have lost the will to take what we have and do what we must. One wonders what they would write if they were reading this today].

Kids used to go around with old clothes [Guess what, even in the frum world there are people doing around with old clothing. Chol V'Chomer in the rest of the US]. Now you’re setting kids up as social failures if they’re not dressed nicely. Of course, I do want my children to look good! [Used is not a bad word!] I’m just saying that expenses are overwhelming and there’s no getting away from them even if you don’t have the money. Boruch Hashem, our children’s school is amazing. We unfortunately owe them about $8,000, but they just sent us our admission cards without a word [Later the writer states her Bais Yaakov salary hasn't increased. I'm just commenting to connect the dots]. Yet, the approximately $20,000 of our total debt weighs on our minds a lot. Besides for the school and grocery, there are gemachs and private individuals whom we owe money to. It can be very embarrassing. [One would hope that there would be a plan in place to repay private loans].

The funny part is that you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at our kids, who are always dressed presentably, or our rented house (renovated by the landlord before we moved in), or our 2001 Astro van (gotten almost for free). Boruch Hashem, everything looks good, yet, very often, we don’t know how we are going to pay the rent, car insurance, electricity, grocery bill, etc. Bechasei Hashem, something always works out, whether it’s a loan, a gift from an anonymous person, etc. [Sometimes I wonder if things have to look bad, possibly really bad, before schooling takes the number one spot on the communal list of priorities?]

But Yated readers should know that people like us are out there. The few thousand dollars people give us before Pesach makes all the difference in the world! We even get to pay back some chovos, which makes us feel very good. I know that sometimes people wonder if we truly need it. The answer is yes, very badly.

The suggestion of one letter-writer to create subsidized food and clothing stores, and tuition solutions, would be wonderful [One wonders how much a subsidized kosher food store could shave off monthly expenses? I'd guess that if the idea got off the ground, it might not prove as helpful as one might think. I once remember reading once that the profit margin the grocery business is very low (below 15%). I don't know how profitable the kosher markets are, although we do know they regularly make interest free loans to customers. Chances are, high prices are not indicitive of a high profit margin. Learning to make the most of a limited food (stamp) budget is crucial. As for clothing, I think we need to get over our fashion sense and make due]. Our expenses are going up and up (look at the prices of gasoline, milk and cheese!), yet our yeshiva, kollel and Bais Yaakov salaries are not [I, for one, find it amazing that one can be paid to learn from some of the top Torah teachers in the world. With the exception of doctorate students in the sciences, and select athletes whose room and board costs are covered, I don't know many people being paid to be in school. Of course, I better say l'havdil before a reader thinks I don't understand the difference between kodesh and chol. But, I get frustrated hearing about kollel salaries not increasing when kollelim have clearly won out over K-12 education] . Nor, I believe, are the salaries of people otherwise employed rising as much as the cost of living is [I don't know any salaries rising as fast as tuition]. Whatever almost any of us earns is just not enough to support a large frum family today, bli ayin hara.

P.S. Despite the financial difficulties that I mentioned, I am overjoyed with my husband and children boruch Hashem, and grateful for our lifestyle and community. I wouldn’t have chosen any differently, except maybe to have started out in Eretz Yisroel! I do dream of winning the lottery, giving most of it to Lev L’Achim, Efrat,etc., and moving to Eretz Yisroel.Gemar chasimah tovah [I just hope the writer doesn't actually play the lotto].


Anonymous said...

maybe there is something wrong with me or maybe i dont fully understand the idea of kollel, but why should the american taxpayer have to support an adult male who decides to have 6 kids and a wife and who is physicaly and mentally capable of workin,have to support his family because he wants to learn. its one thing if the frum community subsidizes someone who does so and no money is take form the goverment, but when one is of able mind and body, i feel it is a chilul hashem for someone like this to do so. if we were reading about a single welfrare mother who had no training skills education etc and wanted to sit at home, most of us, i am sure would be incensed. the welfare who does work and cant make ends meet without welfare and food stamps, has no skills and is not going to make more than minimum wage- they also usually dont have a high school sducation or the background to get a higher paying job. i would hope or assume that a person learning gemara has enuf of a kop to find a better job than minimum wage. many of the poeple who read this blog would also tell the welfare mother not to have so many kids if y ou are going to be on the public dole, so because he's a jew and it says pru u'vru its okay to have six kids and be on welfare?

Zach Kessin said...

I looked up household income in the untied states on wikipedia (
According the the US Census Bureau the meadina household income in the United states for 2006 was $48,201. For someone with a bachelors that number jumps to $68,728 (household). However for someone who is has only a high school diploma that drops to $36,835. For a high school drop out the median family income (2004) was $22,718.

Now we expect someone who has no education outside of gamara to live a lifestyle that costs $150k/year?

The Median household income in the US where one person is a MD or similar was only $100,000/year.

Expecting that someone will make 100K year to "just get by" seems rather nuts.

Ariella's blog said...

The writer indicates that much of the motivation behind the kollel lifestyle is to keep one insulated from the world and they are able to do so by taking advantage of what the outside world provides in the form of welfare, section 8 housing, paid medical care, etc.

I have made this point to my husband numerous times. This tendency goes against basic assumptions about human nature. The answer to why Hashem created the world is said to be to do good to others. So, why does He have to put us through all the challenges we face. The answer is to earn the reward, for "na'am dekisufa" [bread of shame, that is received but unearned] does not make the recipient feel as good as bread s/he has earned. My ka'asha on this is that we have a whole generation today quite content with na'ama dekisufa.

Anonymous said...

It's erev Shabbat, no time for a full response (not that you need mine) but you should know there IS a place where people are paid to "learn": Bar Ilan U gives free tuition to men who learn in their kollel for 16/hours/week and if they up it to 22 hours there is a modest stipends as well. More for married, less for singles, but here are guys learning kodesh and chol for free!!
P.S. I am ill from reading the post, I can't believe that people can write letters like this and I be they are lovely people... on the outside, just like everything else they are so worried about: THE OUTSIDE, what people see!!!

Anonymous said...

I work in corporate America and have a MS.Sadly I'm hard pressed to disagree with the letter writers attitude.There is plenty of garbage going on where I work(i.e.dishonesty+)and although I'm not a part of it I wonder why should I stay here.I barely have time to learn or see my children,I'm exposed to all sorts of thing I rather wouldn't be etc.etc.etc. and to top it off I'm struggeling financialy.Why should I be Moser Nefesh just to have a job?And please none of this 'support your family' talk.Most of my friends(none in Kollel)are getting money from their parents ,are more then happy to take tuition discounts,youth corp,college scholarships etc.So why not just to kollel.Indeed if one is destined to live poor why not remain in Kollel and sacrifice for Torah?

David said...

I also don't understand the plight of the letter-writer.

Isn't Adam told by God that "by the sweat of your labour will you have bread"? Isn't "six days shall you work" a positive commandment?

To me, that there are many people living a lifestyle like this is a terrible hillul Hashem. The idea that one can be "insulated" from the Gentile world, while at the same time benefiting from the largesse of that same Gentile world, is tremendously ungrateful. Perhaps the husband in this case would be able to work on his middot of gratitude and humility by working to support his family.

Anonymous said...

In terms of the first anonymous poster, I agree 100% and have made the point before that we look at a frum family on welfare with many children and say "baruch Hashem", we look at gentiles and say they're lazy or uneducated, etc. To me, this makes no sense at all.

It's always bothered me that people can literally throw themselves on the community and the community has little or no say in this. If I'm expected on some level to support these people shouldn't I have a say on who gets supported? SephardiLady, you mentioned PhD programs as an example of supported learning. Well, they have incredibly strict entrance requirements AND the PhD candidate is almost always FORCED TO TEACH!!! I think we should only support the best learners (I'm sorry, but I don't believe all kollel learners are that serious or skilled in their learning) and these best learners should be forced to teach in our yeshivas. If this system was put in place I would support it. But, I will never support any kollel where someone can just come off the street open a gemara and expect several thousand dollars.

Wouldn't this also solve our tuition crisis? Wouldn't this also solve the problem of bad teachers? Instead we have a struggling kollel system and a struggling educational system.

People mentioned how ungrateful it is for kollelniks to shun the outside world and then take money from it. I think it's more ungrateful and chutzpadik to take money from the community and then shun it by not helping out where you could be most useful. We have a kollel in my community (which constantly asks for money) and the only time you see the kollel guys is when they run an occassional communal learning event or when they're outside smoking. Someone please explain to me why they can't teach our limudei kodesh. Would 3-4 hours a day tops kill them?

Looking Forward said...

maybe the kollel system is the reason why we have such a huge tuition crisis?

Anonymous said...


I agree; it was certainly implied from what I wrote. I guess what I was trying to say is that the kollel system for better or for worse isn't going anywhere. So, I think the systems should be combined in such a manner that kollel learners are the rabbeim in the yeshivas. And the qualifications for getting into the kollel is not just a serious learner, but one who can educate as well.

In fact, this was the system used by z'vulun and yisachar. If it was good enough for them...

Also, I was thinking, what did families like the letter writer's do before food stamps, welfare, and such?

Lastly, for all the letter writer's saying she has so much shalom bayis and everyone is so happy, she sure mentions an awful lot how difficult things are and how much money they owe and how it weighs on them. Cognitive dissonance perhaps?

Ahavah said...

You're absolutely correct, Zach - most people live reasonably well on the median US income, less than $50,000 dollars. But there are additional expenses involved in being Torah observant. The median income, however, is for the entire US - that is, rural areas out in the middle of nowhere count just as much as people living in urban areas with higher costs of living. It's not a 100% reliable guide to what a reasonable minimum income would be in, say, New York or New Jersey.

That being said - it is clear, as someone else mentioned, that this woman is 90% concerned about appearances and only 10% concerned about living within her means. She seems to have subscribed to the "money will fall from the sky" theory, and I have a low opinion of that.

The yeshiva/kollel lifestyle is indeed the biggest obstacle to financial self-sufficiency in our communities, there's no doubt about that, either.

My husband is also very shy, and not in any danger of leading any sort of revolution anywhere, but he is living proof you can work your way up - the key word there being "work." It is much harder these days, though. The younger generation is not going to be able to get jobs without a real college degree or a real apprenticeship in a trade.

I cannot understand this woman's attitude at all, it's a common attitude and it makes no sense. By her own admission she is against work, it's clear she won't use birth control (6 kids in 10 years!), and even without credit cards they are tens of thousands of dollars in debt. But her gripe, bascially, is her welfare is inadequate to live the lifestyle of a middle-class frum Jew. It should be self-evident that someone living on welfare is never going to be able to support a middle-class lifestyle, yet she seems baffled that she can't afford one.

She's a product of her education, class - and that is a very, very scary thought. She believes she is entitled to receive enough charity and welfare to live middle class. How did this happen?

Zach Kessin said...

The median income for NJ Is about $66K, and that is the highest state in the USA.

To earn an income in that rage is going to take real job skills. They can come from a university education or from somewhere else, but they have to come from somewhere.

I get that being Dati costs money and that living an orthodox lifestyle costs more than living a generic secular life. However The community needs to find a way to live within its means before the whole thing comes crashing down. We seem to be spending $2 for every $1 we make this can only go on for so long before we have used up all the sources of cash and the whole bubble bursts. That will be ugly, really ugly

Anonymous said...

With respect to the remarks drawing a parallel between intense, focused learning and PhD programs, I agree to a certain extent. But among all my friends who are PhDs or PhD candidates, not one envisions spending his entire life/carreer studying for a paltry stipend and having 6 children at the same time. PhD students, once they become PhDs, then apply that study, learning and passion towards a carreer that will put diapers on the bottoms of the children they eventually end up having.

Also, there are a few aspects of this letter that I find just so sad. Our grandparents or great grandparents (mine and likely the author's as well) worked long, hard days as manual laborers, sweatshop workers, etc. because they had no choice. They had no formal education, they didn't speak English, they were strangers in this country. The difference with the current generation is that, despite all of their opportunities, they choose inescapable poverty, and they also choose to lead their children down the same path.

A job doesn't have to be the thing in life that you are most passionate about. Lots of people work as accountants or teachers or civil servants or secretaries or lawyers who have other passions in life - religious, artistic, intellectual. Very few people in this world can endulge in their passions full time. Only a small number of religious scholars will earn a living as such.

Finally, once we are blessed with children, our own wants and desires have to take a back seat to our childrens' needs. The author of this letter has it backwards - her children's needs are taking a back seat to her and her husbads wants.

Anonymous said...

I make over $100,000 per year, and neither me, my wife nor my children are ashamed to wear second hand clothes; we all do it to one extent or another. And we hand them down only when out grown, and throw them away only when worn out. The thought of discarding clothing because of a shift in fashion would drive me bannanas. My car is a 1994, and I am not ashamed of that either. The result of a frugal lifestyle and a high income is that I can pay my children's tuition (6 figures this year) without going into debt. I confess to having little patience for those who say they want to dedicate themselves to a life of Torah yet think it is beneath them to wear used clothes. The comparison with the Gr"a's hesped for his wife is stark (he pointed out that she had sacrificed more for the Torah than he, since the Gr"a could go to the public beis medresh when they had no wood for heat.) It particularly disturbs me to see families on financial aid or the teachers in the school making fun of my old clunker of a car (the previous one I had bought as a used cab for $400 with 200K miles on it), when it is my payments that enable them to have a newer car.

It is true that a frum lifestyle is expensive. But it is wrong to pretend that some of these social obligations--ritzy simchas, fancy clothes, new cars, summer camp for kids who do not have two parents at work are necessities. They aren't, and if we can't aford them, we shouldn't buy them.

Someone e-mailed me a video of a Saturday Night Live comedy skit about a financial self-help book called "Don't buy stuff you can't afford." It seems some people in the frum community can use the book.

Anonymous said...

Please tell me this woman isn't on the dole AND playing the lottery! Before I was frum, my non-frum mother told me that Jews don't play the lottery. Since I've become frum, I've been shocked at how prevalent the lotto is. Dave Ramsey (who is quoted in 2 letters to the editor in this week's Yated, quite extensively in one) likes to say that the average person who plays spends $40 a month. Invest that in a growth stock mutual fund each month over 30 years, and you will have $1 million dollars EVERY TIME.

Incidentally, you are statistically more likely to be killed in an auto accident driving to buy your ticket than you are to win.

Anonymous said...

obviously, there are plenty of justifications and proofs for both sides of the arguement whether one should sit and learn all day or go out and have a job. (btw having a job does not preclude one from learning as well). but just looking at some simple pshats from the torah, seems at least to me, that one is obligated to work.

sheshet yamim taase melacha uvayom hasshabat.../ this one seems to most obvious, we are commanded to work and then rest on shabbat.

i believe there is also a place (gemara or misnha that says a father is obligated to teach his son a trade.

im sure there are plenty of places which are against this, but from a human dignity standpoint, how can u justify taking from others when you
are quite healthy and capable of at least trying to find a job. wouldnt you feel better about yourself and your children, knowing that you provided for them? dont we daven and beseech Hashem that we should get parnanssa and not require the handouts from others.
arent there plenty of people out there, jews and non jews who are physically incapable of working- r u not taking or depriving from them and increasing everyone elses taxes?
its one things if one is truly an iluy or has a real greast mind and this is the person who should learn or day.
i belive the chofetz chaim worked and Hashem provided for him by making him successful that he only had to work a little. cant we learn from our gedolim.
what will the children of this person do when they get older. who will support them and their children. who will make their weddings etc. does this woman expect someone else to do it?.

are we creating a parasitic society that only can take?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for addressing the economics angle. I've always said that the Yeshiva world needs to do this. That alone will stem the tide. No credit card history. Stuff like that. If the Rabbis sign off on lecture series for engaged young men and women on financial management, then there will be a chance to circumvent the current system. The real need is to stop the Kollel/large family/mothers working/daycare/debt pattern, but that is more difficult. Easier to get the Rabbis to sign off on a generic: Financial Management series.

Anonymous said...

I know of some very wealthy people who support their children while they learn in kollel and this is nice and commendable, however the whole concept of "a kollel life" leaves much to be desired. As has been pointed out on countless ocasions, the system is flawed and will be doomed in the next 15-20 years when the money runs out. I must get 10 soliitations a month from different organiztions collecting for young kollel families who's bread winner dies w/o life insurance or a family of 15 with a father who learns and must now marry of his 7 daughters. Another issue which has been touched upon slightly is the lack of heterim issued for birth control. If one wants to start out a marrige learning for the first few years that's fine, but perhaps they should wait to have kids until there is a steady income and only have as many as you can support. "G-d will support us" only goes so far, bechira chafshis seems to be the forgoten stepchild in the kollel life.

Charlie Hall said...

The lifestyle for which this woman is grateful is precisely the kind of lifestyle that Republican (and a few Democratic) politicians have used to demonize recipients of public assistance for decades: People who can support themselves, but choose not to. I can't see how this is what the Torah wanted; even Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai did communal work after he left the cave. How did we get such an attitude of entitlement that isn't significantly different from the welfare recipients in the slums? A rabbi in my neighborhood told me he once gave a sermon about the importance of living within ones means and paying ones debts; congregants (in his modern orthodox shul) came up afterwards to chastise him for such mussar.

Regarding PhD programs, yes it is true that you get paid to learn. Yet almost no Americans are taking that option today; in the US most PhD students in the sciences are from Asia. Contrary to a previous comment, it is actually quite easy for a good American student to be accepted into a PhD program in the US because of a form of affirmative action.

Regarding birth control, I've been taught that no heter is needed once a family has a male and a female child -- that it is simply mutar, period, at that point. (Some particular *methods* are problematic, but not birth control in general.)

Finally, for the students of top potential, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah pays its students a stipend. However, they expect their students to enter the community and work as communal rabbis or educators after four or five years of training (and as interns before then). I think that some students at YU's affiliated Rabbi Yitzchak Elcahnan Theological School receive stipends as well. In addition, I think they require a conventional undergraduate degree; frum students could obtain such a degree in a torah environment from Yeshiva University or Touro in the US or from Bar Ilan in Israel. It is absolutely not necessary for one to have to receive public assistance in order to maintain a torah lifestyle; no graduate of either YCT or RIETS has difficulty in finding an excellent job.

Ezzie said...

I don't know what to think about such a letter with such attitudes but cry.

Looking Forward said...

there are so many torah problems with this letter it makes me want to cry.

Anonymous said...

by the way, in her last comment she said she would like to move to israel. does that mean make aliya and pay taxes and contribute to the society, have her children or husband serve in the
idf or does she plan on just moving to israel and obtain handouts from the israeli government. or is it becasue the governemnt there is cutting back on money for haredim with lots of kids, she'll stay in the US.

then again she could be like some of the welfare cheats who come from the caribbean, and have amreican citizen ship. they move to ny, get welfare and then go back to their home island and just collect the checks from uncle sam and ny state and then work at their home area.
she could always move to israel and keepon collecting welfare from the us

DAG said...

What I think most people are missing, is the fact that the Kollel crowd believes that it is providing the MOST valuable service to the community.

When I asked a kollel guy who went into chinuch what he felt about the criticisms some are leveling against Kollel men, he said that those complainers don't realize that their communities only survive because of the learning in the Kollels.

They don't see themselves as parasites, they see themselves as the saviors of the world.

DAG said...

BTW I want to second your notion about a husband who is upset at losing the time from learning because he is busy raising his kids. Have we all gone insane? Being Mechanech your children is Bitul Zman?

Who stole Orthodox Judaism?

Lion of Zion said...

my comments

"At the moment, we have six children, kein yirbu . . . Whatever almost any of us earns is just not enough to support a large frum family today"

Sounds like she is planning on having more. i don't want to sound cruel (but since MIKE S. already had a similar comment a little while back on a different post), but who is she to have more kids knowing very well she will never even try to be in a position to support them? first things first, get her on birth control.

"we did not receive any regular support from either set of parents"

then you should have waited to get married. that's what we did. parental assistance is not an entitlement.

"I can’t bear to have him go into a non-yeshiva environment"

don't expect others to have to do what you won't do in order to support you not having to do it

"We are very grateful for these programs."

then acknowledge it with a prayer for the american government in your shul. i can't remember the last time i was in a yeshivish shul that does this (i can only speak for brooklyn).

"But they [welfare programs] aren’t without their drawbacks. There is always a fear of chillul Hashem"

damn right.

"I have a theory that it used to be acceptable to be poor and it was kind of‘socially acceptable.’ Now it’s certainly not. For better or worse, there are societal norms, which you just have to conform to."

this theory is correct. but learn not to conform.

"nit fees"

i've heard of this. what hutzpah. when i was in ES this was one of the jobs of the school nurse

"have run out of checks, and can’t afford to order more?"

check the sunday paper; they always have circulars to order cheap checks. if you have a computer/internet, use online checking and save on checks AND postage

Lion of Zion said...


"BTW I want to second your notion about a husband who is upset at losing the time from learning because he is busy raising his kids. Have we all gone insane? Being Mechanech your children is Bitul Zman?"

i assume that demarcation of gender roles is much sharper in her community than in yours. chinuch is the purview of the mother, not the father.

Lion of Zion said...


"maybe the kollel system is the reason why we have such a huge tuition crisis?"

but how does work across the board. MO schools suffer the same "crisis" but do not have to deal with children from kollel parents.

DAG said...

Lion..not of the boys...and I will dispute to the end the notion that the only chinuch a father needs to provide his son is learning with him

Lion of Zion said...


i have no idea what goes on today in the yeshivish world, but iirc, historically in europe the mother was responsible for ensuring the education of boys and girls, at the very least at early ages. i seem to remember this being an element of gedolim hagiographies.

or maybe i am just not remembering correctly.

"and I will dispute to the end the notion that the only chinuch a father needs to provide his son is learning with him"

swimming, parnasah?

Anonymous said...

We whine and complain and wonder. They soldier on with their disillusioned, rabbinically approved and encouraged pathological lifestyle thinking as DAG puts it that they are saving our world (I've heard that many times) and yet my neighbors and many others continue to write checks to institutions to support them. And we all think the bubble will burst. Why? Why will it burst if my neighbors continue to write checks? What makes you all so sure of that?

Anonymous said...

An entire generation of frum Yidden are growing up completely misinformed, dysfunctional in priorities, Hashkafa, parenting ideas, financially crippled, intolerant of other Frum Jews......and the list goes on and on and we, the others, are sitting by passively just waiting for a bubble to burst. That angers me much more than the ignorance of the Kollel people. And, no, I'm not doing anything about it. Does anyone have any proactive ideas?

Anonymous said...

While I certainly don't disagree with some of the sentiments expressed regarding the attitude of the letter writer and the state of the kollel system in general, I am shocked at how certain commenters so flippantly make the remark to the effect of "how dare she continue to have children if she cannot afford it." 2 things: First, it is an incredibly complicated halachik shaila as to whether (and in what circumstances) one is allowed to use birth control. Yes, everyone knows about Reb Dovid Cohen Shlita's heter to use birth control after having a boy and a girl (I received a heter from RDC myself), but there are plenty of big poskim who do not follow RDC's psak and to criticize someone for continuing to have children when, Al Pi Derech Hateva, they cannot afford it, is misguided. Second, even RDC's heter is just that - a heter, not a directive. Having children is a tremendous bracha even if one is not sure how they will be able to afford it. Again, I'm not trying to criticize anyone on this blog, but I get the feeling sometimes from the things I read here (long time reader, first time commenter) that people are too quick to look at the 'nomics of a situation and forget about the ortho.

Anonymous said...

"But they [welfare programs] aren’t without their drawbacks. There is always a fear of chillul Hashem"

what does she mean by a fear of chillul hashem? is it the fear if getting caught- are they doing something illegal or is it the mar-ees ayin that bothers her if this becomes public.

could u imagine if the nytimes or the post ran an article about 20-30 year old jewish males who were healthy and decided to learn torah for money and collect welfare, food stamps and medicaid and were having 4+ kids.

wouldnt that alone constitute a chillul hashem? or would we all be screaming antisemitism?

what i have a problem is having large families and relying on the kollel system to support them. HAshem only knows that we need to have more children, but it was one thing in poland or the shtetl that u had a lot of kids and lived in poverty.(everyone else did - the jews the poles etc) but this is not poland and the polish goverment did not pay welfare. we are potentially subjecting and raising a generation who will not be educated enough to support their children and grandchildren.

does anyone know what the income level one has to have below in order to collect medicaid and welfare.

are we proud of this?

Anonymous said...


what i have a problem is having large families and relying on the kollel and welfare system to support them long term.

Anonymous said...

hearinglawyer--there is nothing wrong with deciding to have as many kids as you want and being willing to overlook the economics of the situation----just don't ask me to subsidize your decision. How is cheating the welfare system to pay for your family's bread any different than cheating in business, or just downright pulling out a gun and mugging someone? It's all theft. So go ahead, have as many kids as you want and ignore the 'nomic, but you sure better remember the Ortho part. The ortho part is the part that tells you not to steal. Tells you that stealing from the government, a business associate, or some guy at the ATM is an aveira. You wouldn't feed your children treif food, so why feed them "kosher" food bought with treif money? I'd rather my kids eat rice and beans every night than meat and bread purchased with stolen food stamps.

Lion of Zion said...


"I am shocked at how certain commenters so flippantly make the remark to the effect of "how dare she continue to have children if she cannot afford it.""

just to clarify as one of the flippant commentors, the issue here is more specific. it's not that she can't afford it. rather, she never even had (and still does not have) a realistic plan for how she might be able to afford it.

“First, it is an incredibly complicated halachik shaila . . .”

Yes it is and there is a wide range of views on the matter. So she chooses to be mahmir and the flippants choose to be meikel. why is it right for her to expect those who are willing to accept the more lenient view to financially support her more stringent lifestyle?

“to criticize someone for continuing to have children when, Al Pi Derech Hateva, they cannot afford it, is misguided”

1) I’m not sure exactly what you mean by al pi derech hateva. We are not talking about a situation here where, god forbid, her husband got sick and is no longer able to support his family. we are talking about a couple who apparently never thought for a second about how they might realistically support a large family. I doubt she first realized she was in a financial mess after #6. I assume she realized by #3 or #4, yet she continued to have more without changing her future plans. And now she wants more, but has not indicated that she is willing to rethink how they will support an additional child. This is simply not responsible behavior and is fair game for criticism.

Aside from formulating a long-term gameplan, she could be responsible, for starters, by giving up certain luxuries that the rest of us can’t necessarily afford. Summer camp when both parents are not working? A 2001 minivan? I drive a crappy 2000 American sedan. before that I drove a 79 dodge with rusted-out floorboards. I would love to have a 2001 minivan. She doesn’t want her kids to wear old clothing? Most of my son’s clothing are hand-me-downs from friends and relatives

2) I don’t care if she has 20 kids. But don’t rely on me to support her for the rest of her life through tzedakah and taxes.

3) I don’t think that kollel families represent more than a tiny percentage of welfare expenditures on a national basis. But I would assume that on a municipal level it does hurt the wider community because a) anshe mofes might represent a good size of the welfare recipients; b) they deflate the tax base. In essence, those of us who did a bit of planning and have decent jobs must now pay twice in terms of taxes to support for kollel families. (and do you really want to explore how much of the shtick might be fraudulent?)

I’m not even getting into how supporting the kollel families detracts from other communal needs in terms of tzedaka priorities.

4) you think everyone who has only 2 kids doesn’t want more? Maybe she would not be able to have 6+ kids if kollel families did not rely on welfare and/or tzedakah, but then maybe some of the rest of us could afford a third or fourth.

I sum, you can call me flippant, but I still think it is very egocentric of her to decide that the rest of the jewish community and the tax-paying community should support her because she acted without planning.

Anonymous said...


I would really like to see a post on "kollel economics". What are the inner workings of a kollel's finances. What is their operating budget? Where do their funds come from? How much does a "kollel bochur" earn by learning? Do you "interview" for the position? Based on what credentials is one selected? Are you paid more if you learn more or are a "better" learner?

As I mentioned earlier, we have a kollel in our town constantly soliciting for money from they modern orthodox community. One of the mashgichim in the kollel roughly a year ago bought a nice-sized house in the community. It drove my wife and I up the wall trying to think how they could afford it. Both of us attended top colleges and have good jobs and couldn't afford a house at this point. Is this house bought for them by the kollel?

The point made above about "saving the world" is very apt. This is also why birth control is never considered an option because they want to create a demographic situation where Judaism is dominated by those with their hashkafa.

I've commented on the birth control issue before, but I'd like to add the following question: when did Judaism become rebbe worship? Did I miss something or not grow up frum enough because my parents grew up conservative/ conservadox? I never grew up hearing about having to ask a rabbi for all of life's decisions and yet it seems nowadays it's considered crazy not to get a rabbi's opinion on everything.

Two jokes:
From the Simpsons (Krusty the clown's father is Jewish and a rabbi):
Man 1: Should I finish college?
Rabbi K: Yes. No one is poor except he who lacks knowledge.
Woman: [babe in arms] Rabbi, should I have another child?
Rabbi K: Yes. Another child would be a blessing on your house.
Man 2: Rabbi, should I buy a Chrysler?
Rabbi K: Eh, couldn't you rephrase that as a, as an ethical question?
Man 2: Um... Is it right to buy a Chrysler?
Rabbi K: Oh, yes! [chuckles] For great is the car with power steering and dynaflow suspension!

A young man comes to a girl's home for a shidduch date. The girl's father sits the boy down and asks him "I understand you learn in kollel, how will you support my little girl?" The boy responds, "God will provide." The father says, "I understand you want many children, at least 8, how will you feed and clothe them?" The boy responds, "God will provide." The father asks "I understand you wish to live in a nice house and have nice things, how will you afford these luxuries?" And again the boy responds "God will provide". The boy and girl leave on the date on the mother asks the father "Well, what did you think of him?" so the father responds "Well, he just met me and he already thinks I'm God!"

Charlie Hall said...

"some of the welfare cheats"

I *really* object to this kind of language.

"complainers don't realize that their communities only survive because of the learning in the Kollels"

My own community does not have a full time kollel and it is doing quite nicely.

"acknowledge it with a prayer for the american government in your shul"

We were willing to make sacrifices for Caligula HaRasha, and we won't say a prayer for the US government? I'm no fan of George W. Bush, but to imply that he is worse than Caligula? Chas v'shalom!

"chinuch is the purview of the mother, not the father."

Did I miss something? I've been taught that it is a mitzvah aseh for a father to teach torah to his son.

"my neighbors and many others continue to write checks to institutions to support them"

I write no such checks. My priorities are my shuls, the schools in my community, and the poor here in the Bronx. (There are a shockingly large number of poor Jews here, some of whom can't even afford Yom Tov meals. And they aren't charedi.) Kollels frankly don't even register on the scale.

That said, I have also seen kollels in out of town communities in which its members are very active in teaching classes, visiting shuls, insuring regular minyanim, and generally making a huge contribution to the spread of authentic Judaism. Nevertheless in one of those communities the kollel is thriving while the day schools are struggling. (And one actually closed a few years ago.) What is the priority?

"stolen food stamps"

Is there any evidence that this is a problem in our community? I certainly hope not!

Charlie Hall said...

"create a demographic situation where Judaism is dominated by those with their hashkafa."

It is pretty clear that a lot of charedi kids grow up to be non-charedi, at least in Israel. If that were not the case, the United Torah Judaism list would have 30 or 40 seats in the Knesset by now -- instead they have the same number as the Ashkenazic charedim had back in the 1950s.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Hall:

"Is there any evidence that this is a problem in our community? I certainly hope not!"

you need to get out riverdale a bit.

"That said, I have also seen kollels in out of town communities . . ."

perhaps then we need then to distinguish between community kollelim and the lakewood/brooklyn variety?

"I write no such checks . . ."

makes sense. in general i'm not a big supporter of giving to organizations that propagate ideals counter to my own, whether locally or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

You all may not write the checks, but I promise you plenty of working stiff Orthodox families do. They feel they are doing what is right or they feel guilty when approached. I asked a simple question. With that knowledge in mind (that many, many working people are writing checks) will this bubble actually burst? And if it does not, where do our RESPONSIBILITIES lie to the Klal?

Looking Forward said...

Hearing laywer

you are sooooooo ignorant.

al pi hapeshat halacha one only needs one male, and one female child in order to fulfill peru urvu.

After that you need no heter to stop having them.

(which is why so many years ago rabbis had to spend so much breath discouraging it - because halacha said that they could without any form of heter what so ever.)

it is a black and white, open shut issue. NOONE holds that one must have as many children as on can. At least noone untill modern idiots came around.

to say anything else reflects ignorance of the greatest degree.

Anonymous said...

Care to provide some sources for that? Without sources, I feel disinclined to believe a random stranger online over my rabbi and teachers (who I assume are among those you refer to as "modern idiots").

Anonymous said...

Charlie Hall--
No, most hareidi kids do grow up to be hareidi in Israel. You need to keep in mind the massive aliyot since the 50s, none of which were hareidi. Millions of Jews have come to Israel from places like Egypt, Argentine, Ethiopia, and most of all the former USSR. Very, very few of these Jews are hareidi. Despite the aliya of around 1.2 million russian Jews + non-Jews in the past 15 years or so, support for UTJ keeps rising, so I think the demographics are helping them.

Another stat to support this: when the state first agreed to give an exemption from IDF service to yeshiva bachurim, only a few hundred young men were actually taking advantage of the exemption. Now it's several thousands each year, 11% of those called up each few months.

Anonymous said...

This letter reminds me of a bizarre request for advice that I saw on a message board (in Hebrew) affiliated w/the site I work for. A young man wanted to know how a couple could get by on NIS 700 each month (less than 1/4 minimum wage). The 700 shekels was the husband's kollel stipend. The wife was unwilling/unable to work for reasons the poster would not explain. A bunch of people tried to convince him that at least one of them would have to work, and were met with anger because according to the poster they didn't understand how important learning Torah was to this family. Finally, one person gave a possible solution that didn't involve work--do as many great Torah scholars did and live in a shack with no electricity, phone, indoor plumbing, new clothes, preprepared foods, meat, cheese, etc.

To a certain extent, the letter writer here seems to understand that that's ultimately the only realistic solution for her family that doesn't involve work. She even mentions electricity and phone service as modern expenses that theoretically could be avoided--most are unwilling to go that far. I think her problem is that she sees these things as necessary due to communal norms, and is unwilling to buck those norms in order to be self-sufficient. She could be right about the expenses being necessary--I don't know if the department of social services would allow a family to live without electric and/or proper food and medical care and similar things.

In the end, I think she has two solutions:
1) Live in a shack w/o electricity, phone service, or new clothes. Since she has a job and he's occasionally employed, hopefully they'll be able to afford plumbing, medical care, and decent food. They would be self-sufficient. Their kids would see the true costs of a kollel lifestyle, allowing them to make an informed choice and not expect money to fall from the sky if they follow a similar path.
2) The husband gets a job. I can understand her frustration because their financial situation probably won't improve much in the beginning, leaving them feeling that they've sacrificed his Torah learning for nothing. However, if he's a decently smart guy and a hard worker, he should be able to earn promotions and raises at some point, and by the time they're supporting 7 or 10 kids, they should be able to get by without taking tzedaka from friends or support from the government.

Random thoughts:
Not all of us criticize non-Jews for having kids while on welfare. IMO, the number of kids is only somewhat relevant, and the main issue is being self-supporting regardless of family size. It's not like choosing welfare over work is responsible if you have only one or two kids.

Bar Ilan university is great, but I wouldn't call it a Torah environment. There are several religious institutions that would qualify for that title though, including (in Jerusalem alone) the hareidi college, several hareidi women's schools for teaching and social work, Machon Lev, and Machon Tal. I'm sure there are many more.

Anonymous said...

"Stolen Food Stamps"
If you are getting food stamps, and you are able bodied, and/or own any sort of car, cell phone, house, etc, then they are stolen morally, if not legally. Why should I pay for your kids food when you have the money to own a car, buy new yom tov clothes, send your kids to camp, or are able bodied enough to get a job and just don't?

By the way, it's only a matter of time until some liberal Jew decides to write a front-page expose in the NY Times about the kollel system. I bet the ACLJew (ACLU) would have a field day with the American taxpayer subsidizing such radical Jewish education for adults. They could put a bunch of sexist and racist sounding quotes from the Gemara, and say, "Can you believe the Federal government is paying for this education?" What will our community response be? That we didn't know the government was paying for it?

Anonymous said...

she doesnt have to worry about medical insurance, shes already on medicaid which will pay for doctors visists and most medications

Looking Forward said...

lets start with halachos of kiddushin in the kitzur shulchan aruch.

It states explicitly that after having one boy and one girl one can even remain unmarried, kal v'chomer to marry and use birth control!

Like all mitvos, peru urvue has a set limit, beyond which it is not necessary to go. Yes, provided you have means there is blessing in having more children, and that much is encouraged, but there is no obligation beyond that what so ever.

the argument is hashkafic, not halachic, and is reflective of the general conflation of halacha, chumra and hashkafa in modern society.

perhaps idiot is a strong word, but they are certainly poorly jewishly educated.

but as I said, I will look it up for you and bring halachic sources on the matter. (although it should be mentioned that there are NO relevant halachot on the subject of the pill in ancient sources (since they didn't have such a thing) which is a big issue because the big problem with birthcontrol is l'hatzos zera l'vatala, which isn't relevant at all with the pill. But I will get you sources.

but I will research it and present the sources for you later. (although you would do well with reading the "to be a jew" by rabbi chaim halevy donin. he presents it as being perfectly ok.)

mother in israel said...

She doesn't need to give up electricity until she gives up disposable diapers and all other disposables, "snacks" (wondering if they are expensive junk food, because she mentioned it; she has to feed her kids anyway so she should send an apple or homemade muffin), the car (or at least trade it in for a smaller, older, gas-efficient car--I bet she rarely has to transport all of the kids at once), move to a smaller cheaper house or apartment (painful with a big family but necessary--my cousins lived in a one-bedroom apt. until they had child # 10 or so, true they sent a different child to the grandparents each night). She is also going to have to cut down on the milk and cheese and learn to eat more beans and rice.
I'm with anonymous nov. 18, 7:07. THe worst thing is that they are raising their numerous children without a secular education and, except for a few enterprising individuals, without hope of improving their situation.

Anonymous said...

It looks like 2 comments that I posted last night never made it through. Given that I am at work at the moment, I don't have the time to recreate them. In short, I wanted to respond to Lion of Zion and say 2 things: First, you frame her decision to continue having children (and your criticism of her) in the same vein as one might complain if she would only wear the most expensive sheital and refuse to wear any other type of headcovering (in which case I would agree with you). But we are talking about having children- which I think even you would agree is of a much more important nature. Second, if you don't want to agree with the p'sak she received (and I am assuming she has discussed this with a competent halachik authority) that is fine; don't give her a penny. But to denigrate her for it is off-base (as an aside, I do not understand how you can call her decision to continue having kids egocentric. On the contrary, having children is arguably the most selfless act one can perform).

Anonymous said...

I'm not even sure where to start with you on this. It is clear from the tone of your posts that you believe that anyone who does not agree with you is always wrong and has nothing to base their decisions on. I'm not sure what your poseik credentials are, but to insinuate that any poseik who will not allow birth control is an idiot is simply beyond the pale. If this is the view that you want to take, stop trying to couch it in terms of halacha and say what you mean: you have a severe dislike (to put it mildly) for anything right-wing and/or charedi and will take any opportunity to show it.

Anonymous said...

i was recently at a shiur in my shul (MO) and i dont remember who it was but he was visiting but he actually said that even if you have a boy and a girl you are actually not mekayem pru uvru until your children have grand children, that G-d forbid, if a person's children died, he has not fulfilled the mitzvah yet if they hvaent had children yet.
does that mean you hvaing a boy and a girl only counts if you have one grandchild or do you need one of each sex from each of you children, i dont know.

btw where's sephardic lady?

G said...


I have little patience for this topic as it is covered ground.

I would just like to repeat a story that I've heard many times in my life:

A young man expresses to one of his parents his intention to devote his life to full time learning. The family is not in a financial position to support this life, they would if they could but cannot. This is important as the issue is not ideological but practical. The parent expresses to the young man that this is not a responsible decision, how will he support his family. The young man replies that there is a well established system whereby many costs that would not be covered by the small kollel payment are taken care of through various government agencies. The parent is appalled; how could he allow his family to servive through such means, he asks. What's the big deal, the son replies, the goyim due it all the time, especially the shvartza's.

His mother replies: Bist du a shvartza?

-I apologize if the social terminology offends anybody, some things just don't translate well outside the yiddish language.

G said...

For the record, the above conversation took place over 30 years ago.

Anonymous said...


"I do not understand how you can call her decision to continue having kids egocentric."

i understand that my comments were long and that you are at work, but please read to the very last word before responding. i didn't write that is egocentric for wanting to have a lot of kids; i wish her the best in this endeavor. what i wrote that is that i do think she is egocentric for not realistically planning how to support all those kids and expecting others to pick up the tab indefinately. egocentric is also expecting me to do what she feels her husband should not have to do in order to support her husband not having to do it ("I can’t bear to have him go into a non-yeshiva environment"). it's like the guy on the el al plane who asked me to switch seats with him so he wouldn't have to sit next to a girl.

"don't give her a penny"

i don't have a choice. i work and pay taxes.

Anonymous said...


"But we are talking about having children- which I think even you would agree is of a much more important nature."

yes, but this still does not absolve her of the responsibility to be responsible. i could at least be sympathetic to her if she would lay out her redlines. i.e., at what point does even she recognize that her husband has to enter the "non-yeshivah world." but it seems she is not willing to entertain this possiblity under any circumstance. i'm sorry if i am being cruel, but it is hard for me to feel bad for her when she not only created this situation for herself, but is electing to perpetuate it. (and i assume she would perpetuate this lifestyle for her children as well.)


"What's the big deal, the son replies, the goyim due it all the time . . . For the record, the above conversation took place over 30 years ago."

i've heard this much more recently and on numerous occasions. it gets me when orthodox jews rag on goyyim for using/defrauding the system when we do the exact same thing. at least the goyyim don't do it under the sanctimonious cover of religion.

Looking Forward said...

No, the halacha about grandchildren only applies if for some reason your own kids survive. As long as you have two decendants, one male and one female, who are capable of having kids (not from your same child) you are mekayim the mitzvah.

miriamp said...

"he actually said that even if you have a boy and a girl you are actually not mekayem pru uvru until your children have grand children, that G-d forbid, if a person's children died, he has not fulfilled the mitzvah yet if they hvaent had children yet."

I'm sure it's not the only source, but you can find details on this in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (The only halacha sefer I have in English, even if we don't necessarily poskin from it, I can't read the Shulchan Aruch or Mishnah B'rurah myself). You need something like a grandson from your daughter and a granddaughter from your son, IIRC.

Hearing lawyer, I hear you loud and clear. I also get upset at the blase' "get this woman on birth control and then we'll talk." But go easy on the other commenters, okay? They seem to live in a world where G-d is more hands off than He is in my world (and probably yours). Our perceptions color how G-d and the world respond to you. People who really do believe in "money from heaven" receive it, although often through their own efforts combined with G-d's (histadlus) and the rest don't.

And our Kollel is a community/kiruv Kollel through and through, and all the members, both male (Rabbis) and female (wives), are working members of the community, giving classes, holding seminars, teaching in the local schools -- so maybe I don't understand the "Kollel system" elsewhere, since this is what I'm familiar with. In that case, i won't comment on it.

What bothers me about this letter is the writer's assumption that if her husband went to work and didn't earn that $100-200K that she "read" was "required" that they would automatically be in more financial trouble than they are now. Would the tuition automatically jump to full if he had a job that still couldn't quite cover it? Would their other expenses go up automatically? I don't really think so, and I think it would be a good thing to find some sort of employment for him that would get them off government assistance.

As for the lotto, I too dream of winning the lottery, but I certainly don't play it (my husband calls it a tax on the stupid) so I see that as just a cliche, and hope that's the way she's using it too. Although I don't send my kids to camp, since I'm home anyway, and it seems that she does. I consider schooling a necessity and camp a luxury, and I too would suggest not having her kids attend camp.

Oh, and Mother in Israel, I have to take all my kids with me at least twice a week, so don't make assumptions that she doesn't need to have a car big enough to fit all of them at once. With my oldest also 10, and my husband at work most hours of the day, there's no one to watch the rest of them to take him somewhere or pick him up from school or a friend's house. And even that 10 yr old isn't really old enough to babysit while transporting the others. Although if I didn't have the van, I'd make him walk the 2 miles -- but then what of dr. visits and such that aren't close enough to home or scheduled during school hours?

Anonymous said...

I apologize if I misunderstood your point, but I'm still not sure I agree with you. If one views having children as being of utmost importance such that there is no (or only a very limited) heter for birth control, I don't see how it can be viewed as egocentric to continue doing so even if you're not sure how you are going to pay for it. I am more prone to agreeing with you and others that when it comes to deciding whether or not to stay in kollel that a person should not "force" that lifestyle on others by trying to collect tzedaka - they should go out and work (On a personal note, this is exaclty what I did - after learning in kollel for a couple of years, I realized that I had to support my own family, so I went to law school). Maybe my original point was lost in the fact that the letter writer seems to have so many "strikes" (for lack of a better term) against her the decision for her husband to stay in kollel, but the only point I was trying to make is that one can fault her for her attitude on a number of things, but to say that she has to get on birth control b/c she can't afford to have more kids ignores the extremely complex halachik (and yes, hashkafik) issues that such a decision necessarily raises.

Looking Forward said...

hearing lawyer, in what classical sefer do you find the halacha that one must have as many children as you [theoreticaly] can?!

(and i'm sorry, other than ravmoshe I have no respect whatsoever for modern cheredi poskim who refuse to back up their assertions with actual halachic sources and insist "because i say so and I'm a rabbi" which doesn't fly according to traditional judaism.)

Anonymous said...

I am not looking to turn this conversation into a debate on birth control (which I doubt SefardiLady really wants on her blog). I am glad though, that you are at least willing to admit that you have no respect for any modern day charedi poskim. It is unfortunate, though, to hear a frum jew say that.


Orthonomics said...

btw where's sephardic lady?

I'm in and out today and will probably be in and out tomorrow.

I do hope to open a post up on having a lot of children. I think the real rub of some of the Letters in the Yated is the attitude that the rest of us should put up the bill, while no changes are made by those on the receiving end. As far as I'm concerned, we all need to do our part. Kollel? Simchas? Summer Camp? Stylish Clothing?

Give me some time. . . . . :)

Orthonomics said...

P.S. I will ask again as I have asked before to keep the comments about large families and BC civil.

Anonymous said...

My apologies if I offended anyone.

Jewboy said...

Where to start with this? It's incredibly offensive that her husband won't work because she can't bear him to go into a non yeshiva environment. Plenty of great scholars, including the sages of the mishna and gemera, worked in "non yeshiva" environments. I'd love to have stayed in a yeshiva environment, but guess what? I have a family that I hope grows larger and I take my obligation to support them seriously. So should all these kollel people who feel they're too holy to enter the working world.

Another thing I have a hard time understanding is why people like this don't use birth control. There is no reason to keep having kids you have no prayer of supporting. It would be one thing if the husband got out there and earned a living to support that many kids, but right now all you have are lazy parents whose priorities are misplaced in so many ways. Sorry for the harshness,but these types have to hear it like it is.

Anonymous said...

I can't stand these people who say, "I have as many kids as I want, and I have faith in G-d to provide the money for them." They then proceed to tell how G-d helps them because they learn in kollel and trust in him more.

First, there are serious hashgafic problems with this--G-d does not work on an individual level b'zman hazeh in any way we can discern. Even if he did, it would be usser to point to an event and proclaim it was due to G-d's intervention, or even worse, to live life waiting for his intervention.

Second, if you are a petty thief (i.e. using food stamps and section 8), then you are not making it thanks to G-d. You are "making it" thanks to being a gonoff, and the trade you teach your children is to be nothing more than thieves who know shas.

Looking Forward said...

Hearing lawyer, I'm all about halacha, which is exactly why I am so upset about the way cheredim comport themselves. (and yes, I'm always learning more and more, and the more I learn the more flabergasted I am that cheredim do the things they do.)

Ahavah said...

Apparently, hearing lawyer, you missed the earlier conversation wherein I described how people who truly and sincerely believed in "money from heaven" lost their kids when social services was compelled to intervene. They never doubted money would fall from the sky for one second - too bad, actually. If they had doubted it, maybe they wouldn't have been in that situation.

Anonymous said...

Having kids even after having one boy one girl (which, for some families, doesn't happen until kid #7 or 8) isn't just a hareidi thing. I'm not hareidi, and the midrasha I went to is dati leumi if anything, but I learned that birth control is not 100% OK with no further questions even after having a child of each sex. There should always be a reason that we're deciding not to have more children. That doesn't mean birth control is always wrong either, just that it requires thought.

Pru U'rvu is not the only relevant command. Yes, pru u'rvu is fulfilled after one male and one female child. However, there's also the issue of "b'erev al tanach yadecha" (sorry if that's misquoted), which is taken to mean that even after fulfilling the basic mitzva, "al tanach"--don't stop having children if you still can.

I don't understand why you think a push for large families is somehow a modern thing. Jews have had big families for a long time.

Again, this is not meant as a blanket statement against birth control, and nobody should assume that I am criticizing them for using/not using bc.

Anonymous said...

I think this conversation is starting to dissolve into petty arguing and just outright meanness.

I will be the first to admit I don't agree with the kollel lifestyle or asking a rabbi for a heter for birth control, but we should try to phrase our comments more sensitively. This is especially true because many of the people involved in this lifestyle are simply doing what they truly believe is right (whether you agree with it or not). Therefore, it might be more helpful to comment on what we as a community can do to better this situation.

I will add to the conversation the following hashkafic question: Is it bitachon (faith) or seyata d'shmaya (heavenly assistance) to go out and ask for charity? In other words, if I choose to give charity to a kollel is that a reflection of God helping his faithful servants? Or is it instead a burden on the community and diverting resources from other communal needs? I think this haskafic question reflects the main difference in mentality between people on both sides of the issue.

Lastly, I'd just like to place a reminder of my post above about kollel economics and the issue of whether those supported by the community should do more to help the community (ie teach in the yeshivas)

Looking Forward said...

"Pru U'rvu is not the only relevant command. Yes, pru u'rvu is fulfilled after one male and one female child. However, there's also the issue of "b'erev al tanach yadecha" (sorry if that's misquoted), which is taken to mean that even after fulfilling the basic mitzva, "al tanach"--don't stop having children if you still can.

I don't understand why you think a push for large families is somehow a modern thing. Jews have had big families for a long time."

Actualy that statement isn't particularly true. For starters, it is only recently that a poor woman would be capable of having more than maybe 5 children. This is due to many reasons such as birth complications resulting in a woman's death, high childhood mortality rates, starvation resulting in insuficient BMI to support fertility, Long nursing periods, etc. Additionaly, most children, unless you were wealthy, helped on the farm at a young age, or helped in other buisiness, and therefore supported the family parnassa. Even beyond this the standards of "support" for a child were much lower, and many of the modern costs did not extist (school was paid for by communal funds up till age 10 or 12) and thus it was far cheaper to support a child: all you had to do was feed and clothe him (her), and then pay attention to them.

these dynamics have changed segnificantly, which is the same rational we use for delaying a bochur's age of marriage past 20 (or really in our days, past 13).

those who did stay in kollel were the elite who the community elected to support because they were impressed withhim and believed him to have true potential. This difference in critical, and the community CONSENTED to supporting him, and often litteraly compelled him by boycotting his buisiness and telling other towns to do so as well. The same way people chose rabbanim and dayanim. NOONE chose to be a rabbi or dayan, EVERYONE learned a trade of some kind, only some of them were prevented from practicing it and therefore pressed in to communal service. These differences are crittical.

Looking Forward said...

(and hence show why the option of following a hiddur (having many children) may be undesireable, and certainly not on welfare, and may even transgress halachic prohabitions against relying on miracles and thus be a sin in and of it's self, due to the fear of having enough money to support the child. this would render any hiddur aspect completely irrelevant.)

Anonymous said...

js, thanks for addressing the issue. Does anyone have any objective conjectures about whether this bubble will burst or not? And if not, what can we do to help things change?

Anonymous said...

The bubble won't burst so long as we keep giving money for every kollel that keeps asking for money and every hachnachas kallah fund. There's enough of us breaking our back and limiting our own family size giving tzedakah to keep it afloat, along with massive welfare fraud. Considering Hillary will likely be the president in '08, expect transfer payments from the productive to the unproductive to increase as well, keeping the system afloat.

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with this woman or any one else having a large family. I appreciate the mitzvaot and the stress Chazal place on large families. By American standards if not the frum community, I have a large family.

However, it does seem to me that if one is going to plan a large family, one also has to plan to have some means of supporting them. Like either a business, or a skilled trade or the sort of education that will qualify one for a well paying job. It is there that I find the letter writer's attitude infuriating. It is that she sees no need to figure out how to pay her bills, and is unwilling to even consider taking steps to either increase her income or decrease her expenses.

DAG said...

The bubble will burst. I am sorry, we cannot sustain this, especially given the incompetence that is endemic of much of the Yeshiva communal world. We can only pour millions down the drain for so long...

Lion of Zion said...


"btw where's sephardic lady?"

she's either regretting cooking up this hot potato or trying to figure out a polite way to put us hotheads in our place.

Lion of Zion said...


"I don't understand why you think a push for large families is somehow a modern thing. Jews have had big families for a long time."

please define historically exactly what you mean by "big families" and "a long time."

Lion of Zion said...


"but to say that she has to get on birth control b/c she can't afford to have more kids ignores the extremely complex halachik (and yes, hashkafik) issues that such a decision necessarily raises."

yes it does. and i think that criticism goes both ways.

Orthonomics said...

No regrets on cooking up a "hot potato" so long as everything stays civil. I've just been busy with laundry and cooking/freezing (Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams--All on sale at incredible prices including a free 5 lb bag of potatoes).

Lion of Zion said...

i'm not going to pretend i have anything to add to the halakhaic debate being waged above, but i do think taanit 11a (codified, iirc by the rambam) is interesting:

אמר ריש לקיש: אסור לאדם לשמש מטתו בשני רעבון, שנאמר וליוסף ילד שני בנים בטרם תבוא שנת הרעב. תנא: חסוכי בנים משמשין מטותיהן בשני רעבון

Resh Lakish said: A man may not have marital relations during years of famine, as it is said, And unto Joseph were born two sons before the year of famine came [Gen 41:50]. A Tanna taught: Childless people may have marital relations in years of famine. [Soncino]

it seems to me like this woman, from her description, is entering a famine

(another interesting disucssion on birth control under unusual circumstances, le-havdil, appears in r. oshry's shut mi-maamakim)

Lion of Zion said...

you can freeze potatoes? now you're getting back to the basics!

Orthonomics said...

Soups made with sweet potatos and/or yams that have been pureed can be frozen relatively simply. Never freeze soup with chunks of potato in it, or it will taste spongy.

I believe potato kugel can be frozen, but I'm not a kugel expert.

Lion of Zion said...

"I believe potato kugel can be frozen"

i hate to say this on a post about people who can't afford to put food on the table . . . but ugh.

Anonymous said...

Can I get a word in about Orthonomics? Last night, for the first time, I was at an "Annual Membership Dinner" for the English speaking chapter of Emuna women in Petach Tikva. The program: a few women gave different presentations (FREE); The venue: a room in Beit Emuna which doubles as a children's after-care center - no fancy tables and cushioned chairs(FREE); The food: home made by the women. Many women bought dishes and the food fed 50-70 women (FREE). One of the women VOLUNTEERS to sell knick-knacks (challa covers etc.) (FREE labor) and all the proceeds benefit Emuna's babies.
So, there were no $200/plate tax deductible invitations to send out, no expensive performer to pay, no fancy hall, and these women raise a LOT of money for orphans and other needy with thier own hard work and sweat.
Coming from the U.S., I must say I am quite impressed!!!
School dinner (cooked in the school kitchen, of course), anyone?

Charlie Hall said...

"The food: home made by the women."

This wonderful event would be impossible in many (most?) American communities because either people would not trust each other's kashrut, or the facility would not allow people to bring in outside food.

Anonymous said...

Look at communities around the world that still lack modern technology + medical advances. It's true that the women aren't having a baby every year (and I didn't recommend that), but they often do have more than 5 children.

You seem to be arguing that we should change our standards of observance to fit changed lifestyle standards. I don't agree. IMO, a couple who provides their kids with food, shelter, clothing, and love has done enough and should not be criticized if they choose to have more kids, even if the family isn't up to today's community standards.

halfnutcase/lion of zion--
I know that in my own family tree there are families of 5-10 kids going back well over 100 years. If you look at sifrei yuchsin from as far back as the middle ages, there are plenty of big families in there as well. Yes, women were having babies less frequently due to nursing and poor nutrition/medical care. But they were also marrying a lot younger.

lion of zion--
"Famine" is defined by halacha. When there is a famine, nobody in the community can have marital relations, even those who could afford another child.

I don't understand why the focus here is on family size. The letter writer:
1) Has six kids
2) Wants to live a certain lifestyle, including new clothes and summer camp.
3) Doesn't want her husband to work.

#2 and #3 simply don't go together, and wouldn't go together even if she only had three kids. A man with two kids who prefer taking money from the government to working is irresponsible. A man with seven kids who supports his family is not irresponsible. The question of whether or not this family is doing the right thing has everything to do with whether or not they can support their lifestyle without outside help, not with the question of birth control. If the husband went to work and if they cut costs (ex. new clothes, meat and cheese/certain levels of kashrut, and summer camp) it sounds like they could afford their six kids and possibly more.

Anonymous said...

As I've said before, having a large family is a matter of priorities. I know large families (5-7 kids) in America and Israel that live off of the husband's salary that he makes doing construction or some other manual labor job, and couples that support 10-14 kids on one hi-tech (or other professional) salary. I wouldn't say that having a lot of kids is relying on a miracle. It's simply being prepared to give up certain things in exchange. For example, being ready to homeschool (or, in Israel, send kids to a public religious school) instead of paying private school tuition, or being prepared to have both parents working, or to live in the desert (the family I know with 14 kids lives in the Negev) or out of town (the American families I know with 8-13 kids live in a town with about 5 frum families). The woman who wrote this letter is having problems because she's unwilling to be flexible, not davka because of her kids.

Looking Forward said...

I know that in my own family tree there are families of 5-10 kids going back well over 100 years. If you look at sifrei yuchsin from as far back as the middle ages, there are plenty of big families in there as well. Yes, women were having babies less frequently due to nursing and poor nutrition/medical care. But they were also marrying a lot younger.

and I can tell you pretty much for certain that these people were very, very wealthy. Secondly, in the old days women did not go through puberty until 18-20 years old, so at what ever age they married is rather irrelevant, they couldn't have kids for many years after that (that is women who were not wealthy). Halacha states clearly that the ikkar age for majority is 20 years old, its only because safek midrabbanon l'hakel that we accord majority at the (lenient) age of 12 or 13, this mostly due to the fact that a well fed 12 or thirteen year old will have attained majority.

But that wasn't the norm. That is one reason why halacha demands that men marry by 20 years old, even though it states when someone atains maturity (and not intellectual maturity, but physcial).

additionaly, I'm betting those books don't exactly give when those kids died in their childhoods. Half of them probably did.

It is only in the last 150 years or so that a poor person would even be capable of having 10 kids, and its only in the last 75 years that we have attained a unique situation: ie that a person of moderate means is more than capable of having well more children than they can litteraly afford to support. I am not talking about all the extras, I'm talking about basic necessities, food, healthcare, living space.

the cost of living has spiraled so much that rather than contributing to family income, children are a major loss. That is the ikkar change from past times.

Because of that it justifies a big change from the ways we approached families in previous times. Yes it would be nice to have large families, but by all means, try and make sure that you can actualy support them!

Anonymous said...

Halfnut case wrote: "the cost of living has spiraled so much that rather than contributing to family income, children are a major loss. That is the ikkar change from past times.
I don't know if people did or didn't have bunches of kids in the past. Certainly if they did, many or most did not survive childhood.

An important point may be that in the "olden days" children were expected to go out and earn income for the family (except, of course, wealthy families). These days, everyone lives like a wealthy person PLUS there is the burden of paying for their tuitions for 12 or more years (I am being generous and "forgetting" about preschool and college).
So, either people need to get those kids to start generating income, or they need to plan their income match the family's needs, or worse: match the size of the family to the income.....
I don't think there is anything dirty about living withing your means, and family size is part of it.

Anonymous said...

"yes it does. and i think that criticism goes both ways."

The point I am making is that the (apparent) knee-jerk reaction that certain commenters on this blog had (to the effect of "her husband doesn't work, so how dare she not be on birth control!") completely ignores the complexities of the decision not to use birth control. If you glean from her letter that she has not discussed the issue with a competent poseik and is making the decision on her own, then I agree with you. I am assuming that she has consulted with daas torah on the BC issue.

On another point, one way that I have seen potato kugel frozen is when you prepare it and freeze before cooking it. To cook, you pre-heat the oven to 450 and put it in frozen. This doesn't help you save leftovers, but it is helpful when you have lots to prepare in advance but want it to be fresh when served. I have seen it frozen after cooking, but you are taking your kugel in your hands when you do that.

Looking Forward said...

Hearing lawyer,

unless you're choosing to use something other than the pill, there are no complexities other than do you or will you have the minimum number of children (for now lets just specify and generic two, and not get in to the debate about gender of said children).

Anonymous said...

I have asked my own shaila and have been told by my Rov, who is a talmid chacham and a competent poseik, that there are modern day poskim who hold that the pill is assur.
Look, you and I will have to agree to disagree on this one.

Zai g'zunt.

Looking Forward said...

yes and I'm sure they wear a black hat and insist that you both have to keep the sexes seperate at a wedding and that a nonmarried boys and girls are not allowed to socialize dispite the fact that halachicaly the two are fundementaly contradictory oppinions. (as they are both cited in the same shittah by the same rabbi as interdependant, and this is the exact same rabbi who is quoted in order to necessitate having seperate weddings.)

(lets put it this way, when I quoted the bayis chaddash in question and his own buir on that quote in a teshuva (which the two cannot be ethicaly seperated)to my chassidic rabbi the rabbi sat there in exceptionaly uncomfortable silence before making a feeble reply and saying that "it was interesting")

its amazing what they refuse to tell you in yeshiva no? my rosh yeshiva forbade me to quote, numerous other similar quotes i'd come up with in my very eclectic reading over the years informing me that "you're right, but I don't want you telling the other students, because they'll missuse it."

Anonymous said...

Halfnutcase - What, you've never heard of the concept of "halacha v'ein morin kain" ?

Anonymous said...

So, Halachically you should have as many children as possible and not worry about how to feed them?
Or, you should have as many children as possible and worry about how to feed them BUT do nothing concrete about it? Or, have as many children as possible knowing lekatchila you are going to have to beg from others in order to feed them? All this in the name of not using birth control and not getting a viable profession to supplement your Torah learning?
I don't understand the rulings on birth control when not using it will spiral a family into a death status "ani chashuv kemeit".

Anonymous said...

Tamiri -

Should a childless married couple who are, for whatever reason, reliant on tzedaka for their basic needs not have children? Or are you only asking your question when they have already had a few kids?

I think you would agree that we should not require even the most desperately poor people from procreating at all. Then it just becomes a question of how many kids you can have, which is a more matter of degree.

Anonymous said...

*that should be "forbid" not "require"

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how to respond to you. Look, I absolutely accept that there are heterim from "big-time" gedolim to use BC (as I mentioned previously, I got one myself). It seems, however, that because you feel that it is allowed, any poseik who says it is not allowed is (to use your terminology) "an idiot." I'm not looking to get into a fight with you here, but I just do not understand why you refuse to accept that there are legitimate poskim who do not allow the use of birth control (including in the scenario described in the letter). If you have an issue with the writer's attitude regarding going to work, that is fine - do not give her (or anyone you feel is like her) a penny. But I think it is improper to take someone to task for following their poseik on a very complex issue.

Looking Forward said...

anon, that's not aplicable here, especialy as this halacha is founden on other halachot. You CAN"T take that halacha without taking his other halachot with it.

You can't just apply that concept indescriminatly. One would violate a tremendous number of issurim on a constant basis if one did.

For instance with regard the shoes on tisha be'av, there is a halacha which the shulchan aruch says doesn't apply because its reason doesn't apply. ie that when it rains in our regions one does not need to refrain from wearing leather shoes and since we are not accustomed to such harsh conditions (ie a change in circumstance creating a change in halacha) we are not bound to refrain from wearing shoes then.

Likewise there is a psak in the gemorah that it is apperantly assur for a man to wear pants. (mesechta niddah)

This halacha does not apply anymore because change of circumstance brought about a change in halacha.

The examples are multitudinous.

also halacha states that on yom kippur any man over twenty must wear a kittel, and we don't, why? because in former times every man was married by that age, and therefore custome became to defer it.

No, the that principle is applied in only very limited circumstances. To apply it outside of them is to flirt with serious halachic violations.

besides, the that bach's comment here, he explicitly states that the only problem is with married women, and that there isn't even a possibilty of having sinfull thoughts because of a non-married woman (presumably because at least in theory the act is fundementaly permitted, and therefore one is not comtemplating a forbiden act.)

Looking Forward said...

my problem, hearing laywer, is that most modern cheredi poskim deal in making problems, not fixing them as is the nature of their occupation.

People make enough problems of their own. Rabbanim are here to fix them.

My problem is that most modern poskim are incompetant and poorly educated. And I object to their violating and humiliating torah and judaism.

there is NO halachic basis for such an objection whatsoever. NOONE classical brought up anything that would have led to a prohabition against it, except maybe in the case of a very wealthy person who could afford that many children. Noone.

Rav Moshe says its perfectly ok, and is not "bigtime" enough for you?

as I said, the only objection to it is lahatzos zera l'vatala (which is the concern in the gemorah with virtualy all methods of birthcontrol mentioned, except for possible sarkanas nefashos) and the pill clearly is irrelevant to this issue.

I could always be wrong, but in this case I severely doubt it, and I find that the more I learn, the more difficult and untennable I find key aspects of cheredi conception of halacha and torah hashkafa.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted the distinction of being post 101...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11/20 2:07 pm
Ah, so here lies a great issue: should "poor" people lekatchila not have children? Should they be limited? By whom? What number? At what point, when they can't afford to pay tuition, should they be told enough! I really don't have the answer. I think people should have lots of children and that tuition should be covered by someone else. Seriously. But to have kids and not be able to FEED and CLOTHE them, that is a bottom line for me.
And to go into debt and rely on Tzedaka well... I don't know how a person can do that. But it seems that is is a new norm, no shame in it anymore. Hey, no shame in being an unwed mother anymore either....

Anonymous said...

What would be wrong with showing a bit more respect + derech eretz when talking about the hareidi world, which is much more varied than you make it out to be? How are angry terms that bash learned rabbis as "idiots" going to help anything? Yes, you have every right to disagree with hareidi rabbis, and there are many non-hareidi gedolim who posken differently, but why the disrespect? The gedolim you cite, such as Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, did not show such blatant disrespect as you do. If you want to follow their rulings on birth control and other matters, follow their respectful treatment of hareidim as well.

Your arguments on poverty + family size make very little sense to me. We are healthier because health care and food are abundant compared to past ages--therefore we should have less children? Why, when it's so much easier to provide for them than it was in the past? The average salary in the states and Israel could easily support a family at a standard of living much, much higher than was customary in the past (a house with multiple bedrooms, food, medical care, etc). There are three reasons that Jewish families are finding it difficult to support many children:
1) Insanely high tuition.
2) The parents' refusal to work or inability to find work due to lack of secular education.
3) A desire to keep up with societal norms that demand that parents provide their kids with extracurriculars, summer camp, new clothes, etc, and don't require the kids to work.

IMO none of these three things are required by the Torah (yes, we are required to teach our kids Torah, but not at any particular institution), while having children is seen as both a command and a blessing ("pru urvu u'mlu et haaretz," "happy is the man who fills his quiver with them," etc). If we have to get rid of something, why start with large families? I'm not advocating 8-15 kids for couples who feel they can't handle it, just maybe being a bit more open to more kids.

Anonymous said...

"So, Halachically you should have as many children as possible and not worry about how to feed them?
Or, you should have as many children as possible and worry about how to feed them BUT do nothing concrete about it? Or, have as many children as possible knowing lekatchila you are going to have to beg from others in order to feed them? "

No, you should have as many children as you are able to physically + mentally handle AND should make concrete efforts to provide for them. IMO there are (baruch Hashem) not many families out there who absolutely could not afford food if they made and effort to work. There are some cases I can think of (divorcees, families where a parent or child is ill, etc), but most people could buy basic nutritious food for their family on an average or less-than-average salary.

Anonymous said...

I am with Ora here. The problem is not with large families per se. It is with combining large families with an unwillingness to make the decisions to enable one to support them. Which can be a combination of taking the steps needed to develop the required earning capacity or accepting the ifestyle limitations that come with spreading the income over a large family.

Commenter Abbi said...

Ora- I'm not being snarky- but you're really not fully understanding hnc's and others comments regarding birth control and poor families.

The woman in the letter- who said specifically that she doesn't want her husband going out to earn a living- and depends heavily on food stamps and welfare so she can drive a relatively late model van and dress her kids in new shabbos clothes- has no business having six or more children. She is clearly choosing NOT to plan responsibly to support such a large family in the middle class style to which she is accustomed. She is clearly EXPECTING the community, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to pick up the tab for her irresponsible choices. That is just wrong. I don't think anyone can dispute this. Because she is refusing to be responsible - she needs to get on birth control. She can't have her cake and eat it too- a large family, a middle class lifestyle and little to no income.

The point of pointing out that poor pple didn't have these options 100 years ago is that most poor pple just didn't end up with 10 children - infant mortality, maternal health being what it was.

The bottom line is that everyone should have as many children as they can be financially responsible for.

Anonymous said...

"The bottom line is that everyone should have as many children as they can be financially responsible for.
What if you can only afford one child? I mean clothes, food, tuition. Should that make you stop?
What if you are young and ambitious and have 4 kids in 6 years and only THEN do you find out that you can't really "afford" them.
There is no way to know in advance how many kids you will ultimately be able to support. If the average per family is 4 in your community, then you do the same, not thinking too much about the future. Just the way it is, I think.
And regarding tuition: are YOU going to be the one to limit the # of children, while all around you "everyone else" gets assistance?
Maybe an actuary can put together a table which will help people make educated decisions :-)

Commenter Abbi said...

Look, obviously life happens and you can't plan for sudden unemployment, illness, fire, hurricanes, etc.

If you live in an area and/or work in a job that only allows you to afford one child, and you want more, then you need to make some hard choices: Find a higher paying job, get your spouse to find a higher paying job, move somewhere cheaper, buy some farmland and grow your own food. There are lots of ways to make it happen. Depending on tzedakah and welfare? NOT the answer.

Regardless, this issue is really completely unrelated to the woman in this letter who stated explicitly that she does not want her husband to work. That's the crux of the issue: Are we as a community obligated to support pple's decision to have large families when they don't feel an obligation to earn their own income? I can't believe there's even a heter for such thinking, let alone that pple actually do it.

Why do pple keep bringing up other kinds of examples that don't speak to the issue at hand?

We also live under the threat of a terrorist nuclear bomb attack? Does that mean we also shouldn't have lots of children? Who cares?

I'll rephrase my bottom line: If you're not willing to earn money to feed, clothe and educate your existing children, you shouldn't be having more.

Anonymous said...

Do you know what this thread reminds me of? A little while back, there was a big deal in Israel because the government was going to reduce the level of welfare paid for each child (a good start--but they should just eliminate it). There were not just protests and speeches by rabbonim in long beards and black hats denouncing the move. They were not just making up halacha to support themselves. Even worse, people said the state was acting like the Nazis!!! They said that by not paying the exorbitant welfare rolls, then people would have smaller families, and "just like the Nazis reduced our family size, so is the government". As if the government did anything to reduce family size---not funding something is entirely different than banning it.

We have this disease in America as well, where people equate the government not funding something with it being banned. Think about embryonic stem cell research. It's 100% legal. Until Bush, it received absolutely no federal money. Bush granted federal money for existing stem cell lines only. To hear the media, you'd think he'd banned it, when he actually enouraged it by providing partial funding. How about people crying censorship when Giuliani wouldn't let that gross art exhibit use city funds? He didn't ban it, just held back city funds, and people cried censorship.

So by saying that people who are against the standard kollel life (lazy husband, family on welfare) are against large families is entirely false. I'm pro-large family... just be ready to pay for it yourself.

Anonymous said...

Tamiri said: "And regarding tuition: are YOU going to be the one to limit the # of children, while all around you "everyone else" gets assistance?"

Yes, Tamiri! That is exactly what people should do. My husband and I, B"H, have two wonderful children, and we would love to have more. But the bottom line is that we are already paying more than $20,000/year for their tuition, which is about $30,000 of our salaries before taxes, and we don't feel that we could afford that and still continue to pay full tuition. Just because "everyone else" is receiving financial assistance doesn't make it right.

I don't understand how so many families get tuition assistance from their childrens' schools, yet those same families who don't have money for tuition give tzedakah money to every person or organization that asks for a handout. That's just wrong.

Anonymous said...

Poster above me feels that 2 children, for whom he/she can pay full tuition is enough. Rather than request assistance, that family has decided to limit it's family size.
I admire your ability to limit your family size, I really do. But 2 just "isn't enough" for most people. I personally can't imagine having just 2. If we all decide to have children within our means, the Jewish nation will be more rapidly depleted than what's going on already. And for those who don't work anyway (see Kollel wife who does not WANT her husband to work), even 2 is too much! So you see, there is no real way to know when "enough is enough".
Personally, I would have more kids and send them to charter or public school. I can't imagine limiting family size because of tuition. The school years last for a limited amount of time. You have 3-4 "free" years beforehand with them, and then ad 120... so for a relatively (in the large scheme of things) short period of time a family should deny itself children?
Now, Rabbis: is tuition a halachically-correct form of birth control :-)

mother in israel said...

the government was going to reduce the level of welfare paid for each child (a good start--but they should just eliminate it).
I consider this "welfare" to be similar to an IRS tax deduction for each child under 18. EAch government determines policies to encourage or discourage childbirth. We see what happens (in Europe) to the economy when people stop having children; the future tax base will not support the elderly and their health needs. The original child allowances in Israel doubled with the fourth child, and that has stopped (unfortunately for me). But eliminating them entirely is a bad idea. Of course, with a tax deduction, you ensure that people with children have incentive to work. But once the children are born, even to irresponsible parents, someone must look out for them. Most tax breaks for children in Israel only apply to the mother's salary.

Orthonomics said...

I admit I'm unfamiliar with Israeli Economics, but I would say that incentives must be tied to the tax system, not just to the mother's salary.

Ahavah said...

I would agree with some of the previous comments that the issue, really, is how to define "charity" in the first place, and who should be entitled to it.

I think many of us here would agree that someone who suddenly finds themselves in an overwhelming situation, regardless of how many kids they do or don't have, should receive charity.

But that is clearly not the case with this woman - these are able-bodied people who are choosing, of their own free will, to unload their fiscal and parental responsibilities on others - and in essence stealing from the genuinely needy by doing so.

That I think is where many of us have a problem - the issue of having more children is a reflection of this woman's unwillingness to be responsible for the ones she already has - no one's saying it's always wrong to have a big family.

Now, someone asked, "What will burst this bubble?"

I'll tell you - and you'll think I'm crazy. But, in regards to America, here goes:

What will burst this bubble is called "Peak Oil" and his good friend, "hyperinflation." Within ten years, there will not be a drop of gasoline/diesel available for personal automobiles. Let me say that again: NOT ONE DROP. EVERY BIT of gas/diesel will be allocated to the military, police, fire, ambulance, and probably food delivery. The government will put this rationing in place because it has to - we can no longer compete with true industrial nations for the fast dwindling supply of good quality oil. China and India still have actual manufacturing - they can outbid us by a mile for crude. This is not an issue of "running out of oil," it's an issue of oil being completely unaffordable, and the government having to confiscate what it needs to function, leaving the rest of us high and dry. There are industry analysist - not kooks - who say $300 a barrel for oil within 5 years is not out of the question.

The hyperinflation follows because OPEC and our major trading partners such as China and India are dumping US Treasuries and US Dollars like toxic waste, because they are backed by absolutely nothing at all that has real value. When it takes giant piles of US cash to convince someone to even take the stuff from you in trade for a real object, that's hyperinflation. I suggest you study up on Argentina and Germany's fights with hyperinflation - yes, it can happen here.

What does that mean?

It means most of us will be broke, and charity will become practically nonexistent. At that point, they will have to get a job or starve. Welfare benefits will never keep up with hyperinflation - anyone relying on welfare will find themselves left in the dust.

All of this will happen within the next decade - according to Matthew Simmons, and oil industry analyst and member of the CFR (Council on Foreign Relations), the timetable is only 6-7 years.

For more info, you can go to, a webpage where industry analysts trade articles and charts and graphs with each other about falling production and lack of viable alternatives.

America has squandered it's resources and will soon have none. Domestic production is only enough for govt and emergency operations - private cars are not even planned to receive rations. In fact, the US government is running simulations for food riots in areas with no rail service even as we speak.

And our communities are not only not self sufficient, most of them are so ignorant of what's going on out in the real world that they have no idea what's coming - thought I doubt they'd do anything even if they did understand how serious this really is.

Charlie Hall said...

"We see what happens (in Europe) to the economy when people stop having children; the future tax base will not support the elderly and their health needs."

This is mainly a problem in Eastern Europe, which combines the lowest birth rates in the world with substantial emigration of the working age population. Western Europe is still doing rather well thanks to immigration.

Anonymous said...

It is very difficult to pick apart the issues here without projecting my own bias but I will try.

I am MO with a dual income and have very little patience for the Kollel culture and mentality that this mother describes. I wholeheartedly agree with earlier commentors who believe it is a NY Times column/Chillal Hashem waiting to happen.

However, any talk of encouraging birth control and thereby ebbing Jewish births is ridiculous and should be non-negotiable. Hashem will provide - children are a blessing for all of Israel.

The real issue here is frankly whether this family is doing their part to provide properly for their children given the pressures of the dysfunctional sub-culture of the community they live in. This is the model their parents and rebbeim project as acceptable. However at what point does she become an adult and decide what is best for her children vs. what is socially acceptable?

After 6 children you should understand that you have to make decisions for yourself. In less kind words - GROW UP! KICK YOUR HUSBAND OUT AND TELL HIM TO STAY OUT UNTIL HE GETS A JOB!

Commenter Abbi said...

Ahava- Peak Oil is an issue, but the site you gave has pretty extreme views.

Many mainstream outlets are starting to buy into the theory, but I don't think 6-7 years is the timetable.

Anonymous said...

Wow!From reading these comments you would think this lady asked the bloggers here for their money and tzedokah.That isn't the case.All she did was mention reliance of government programs.I trust that all the big talkers here won't find lawyers or other planners to find ways to get their assets off their names in order to have the government pay for either their, or their parents nursing home bills etc. without affecting their inheritance money.My experience with the real world has shown all the big talkers and kollol bashers had no problem doing so.None of them were so self rightous as to say 'a person must provide for their old age themselves' when it came to their potential inheritance money.

Looking Forward said...

anon, halachicaly it is a childs obligation to provide for their parents care in their old age in a dignified way, and I certainly would not shirk my responsability.

Anonymous said...

So Mr/Ms anonymous 11/23 @10:48, what are you suggesting? We encourage more welfare in the Jewish community?

mother in israel said...

There's nothing wrong with hiring a lawyer to make sure you are not overpaying your taxes. At any rate these people are paying large sums of taxes anyway. It's not the same as using other people's taxes to support you, because you have decided that what you are doing is more valuable than working and paying taxes yourself.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:42-I'm saying that if you are so against welfare don't get the gov to pay for your,or your parents bills in their/your old age.

MII-I have no issue with someone getting a lawer or accountant to minimize their taxes.I think it is hypocritical for people against kollel people taking government money to have the gov pay for the expenses in their old age,particullarly if they had lawyers or other financial planners remove assets from their(parents)names so that the gov should pay when they could of done so themselves.My experience with the real world has shown that many big talkers and kollel bashers did so.(Those who didn't simply didn't have the oppurtunity, it wasn't a princepeled oppisition that prevented them from doing so)These are my last comments on this blog(bl'n)

Ahavah said...

Dear Abbi,

The Council on Foreign Relations is not some "out there" radical group of nobodies. Their views are not "extreme," they are government policy. Every president (and presidential candidates who have any serious chance of winning) of both parties are members. The vast majority of congresspersons are members. The banking and industrial families of this country are members. You would do well to go to their own website and read up - they're not shy, they're proud. If the CFR says it's that near - it's that near.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:01 :

There is nothing hypocritical here. People worked their whole life and paid a lot into the system. We are talking about 14% of our salaries goes to SS alone, in addition to other taxes that we pay. So, getting it back in the old age is a lot different then young able bodied individuals NOT working, NOT paying, but YES demanding to have all of their life's needs paid for.

Lion of Zion said...

wow, this thread is still going on?

ANON (10:48am):

1) divesting assets and other tax saving measures are not illegal. that is what tax code is all about.

2) welfare fraud IS illegal

3)i am a bit suprised it took someone this long to make your point. i was not thinking specifically of nursing home economics, but rather the fact that most of us do cheat at some point in some way. the difference is that (i hope) no one here plans their life around cheating. also, it's a bit sanctimonious to argue that one may defraud the system to pursue a higher religious ideal (whatever it may be). even if you want to claim that divesting assests is immoral/illegal, there is no rabbinically-sanctioned, communal culture of doing so to further yiddishkeit.

also, you wrote:
"Wow!From reading these comments you would think this lady asked the bloggers here for their money and tzedokah.That isn't the case.All she did was mention reliance of government programs."

go read her letter. she did not ask for tzedakah in her letter, but is clear she relies on it together with welfare. that minivan did not come out of thin air; nor did the "few thousand dollars" that tied her over for the summer.

Orthonomics said...

Of course the letter writer and others like her are asking for our tzedakah dollars.

Tuition scholarships/reductions, tomchei, free loan societies, etc, are worthy of our support. But we all need to do our part. If too many people decide to be takers, everyone suffers.

Lion of Zion said...

to lighten up a bit and get historical with one aspect of tzedakah:

oh wait, there were controversies there too.

Looking Forward said...

y'know, I've been thinking, and granted its a bit of an odd way to start schools, but maybe we should start, instead of just starting a school, gathering charity dollars in to an endowment kind of thing prior to starting the school, so that in the future it can support a large portion of the school and thus ease the burden of tuition dollars? granted it takes a lot of money to do that, but I think in the long run the school might end up more stable (of course putting enough back in to it every year that it will grow to compensate for average inflation).

Anonymous said...

As a Kollel wife, I have to say that Kollel is doable financially.

I started to justify a lot and just erased it. A lot of the tone of what has been written here offended me. There are 70 ways of looking at the Torah. You may not agree with mine, that my husband should learn and that any family time, time spent fixing our house (yes, we own), etc. comes off of learning time but it is mine. I won't criticize your lifestyle, please respect mine as well.

BTW, if we waste time, my husband does feel guilty because he could be learning instead of wasting time but he doesn't feel bad that he's spending time with the family.

I firmly believe that we all need to live within our means. I am aware that many of my peers (myself included) at times only plan financially for the next few months or the next year or two. We all make bad finacial decisions at some point and we all make good decisions. (in my world, bad-bouncing a check; good-enrolling in 401K, giving maaser to a cause that has helped us/other causes that will help the needy in order of the Rambam's list; in my parent's world bad- bounding checks, good - savings, 401K, maaser)

To quote a Rebbe in the Yeshiva here, "Starting marraige in Kollel is great. It teaches you to make do with little."