Has the Kollel apogee been reached?

A few nights ago after Ma’ariv, a young and enthusiastic collector asked me for a few bucks. When I asked what for, he responded that he established a new Kollel for Ba’alei Tshuva who had learned there for 9 or so years, and that times were tough. Of course, that was the truth.

I asked him why they were still in Kollel? He said, because their Torah protects Am Yisrael?

I asked him whether there were any exemplary students therein or were they “run of the mill”.

He asked me “why? what does it matter”. I replied because in my view, if those of us who work for a living extend ourselves to support mediocrity then it’s highly questionable. I noted that at (lehavdil) University level, we were tested for entry most vigorously, and all our outputs are scrutinised. I asked  what level of scrutiny was applied given that there was a crisis, limited money, etc

He  re-iterated that my point wasn’t important because their Torah was protecting Am Yisrael. There is ample precedent in Kosvei Kodesh of that. I asked him what he thought of Nachal Charedi. It’s a litmus test for me, because I feel it offers so many of the more mediocre types the chance to gain a profession and make a living which has more self-esteem. I asked him whether he thought Israeli Soldiers (e.g. Nachal Charedi) were protecting his Kollel when they were policing borders and the surrounds.

He became agitated, and told me that Torah protects.

I then quoted an Aderes Eliyahu from the Vila Gaon (he being a Litvak) where the Gaon explained the Gemora in Brachos לה ע”ב that when הרבה (many) do like R’ Shimon Bar Yochai (devoted themselves solely to Torah Learning) לא עלתה בידם (it wasn’t successful). I argued that the problem is that we are not following the Gemora which makes it clear that as a general rule people should work (and then be Kovea Itim LaTorah) and not be poor in Kollel to the extent that there are myriads begging terribly for money simply to put bread on their empty tables. I feel very sad when people are in poverty because of this choice.

I fully understand that post Holocaust, there was an urgent need to rebuild, but we have rebuilt, and Torah is flourishing in the Holy Land like never before. I know of Tshuvos e.g. from R’ Moshe Shternbuch on the topic. He chuffed off and asked me to text him the Aderes Eliyahu מקור

I kept forgetting to look it up (I had seen it 30+ years ago) but unsurprising, when I was looking into the Nefesh Hachaim of the Saintly R’ Chaim Volozhiner, the Gaon’s prime pupil and yoresh, two nights ago, the Nefesh Hachaim says the exact same words.

Sure you can twist any which way with Girsaos in the Gemora, and I’ve seen lots of that, but you can see my line of thought in R’ Chaim’s classic Nefesh Hachaim from Shaar 1, No 8.

ואמרו הרבה עשו כרבי ישמעאל ועלתה בידם, והרבה עשו כרשב”י ולא עלתה בידם. היינו רבים דוקא, כי ודאי שלכלל ההמון כמעט בלתי אפשר שיתמידו כל ימיהם רק בעסק התורה, שלא לפנות אף שעה מֻעטת לשום עסק פרנסת מזונות כלל ועל זה אמרו באבות כל תורה שאין עמה מלאכה וכו’. אבל יחיד לעצמו שאפשר לו להיות אך עסוק כל ימיו בתורתו ועבודתו יתברך שמו ודאי שחובה מוטלת עליו שלא לפרוש אף זמן מועט מתורה ועבודה לעסק פרנסה חס ושלום וכדעת רבי שמעון בן יוחי…

The Maharsho on the spot is even stronger. Check it out.

Of course, it’s also in Shulchan Aruch, אורך חיים קנ’’ו

Your thoughts appreciated?

Ex-Kollel students training to be policemen (Jerusalem Post)

Author: pitputim

I've enjoyed being a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia, as well as band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel and later in life at Machon L'Hora'ah, Yeshivas Halichos Olam.

6 thoughts on “Has the Kollel apogee been reached?”

  1. You are absolutely right. Yisshar Koach!
    Let us look at some aspects. You write about a question you asked: “I asked what level of scrutiny was applied given that there was a crisis, limited money, etc.” It is a legitimate question. Before you accept a pupil you have to ask the relevant question, otherways you can fall into the trap in Chulin 133a: כל השונה לתלמיד שאינו הגון נופל בגיהנום or כל השונה לתלמיד שאינו הגון כאילו זורק אבן למרקוליה
    I could not find in the Bible the quotation “Tora Protects”. Weren’t we or our parents witness to what happened during the Holocaust. There was no difference if the Jew was assimilated or a Rosh Yesiva.
    The MACHLOKET between Rabbi Yishmael and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochay, is the only place that I can remember were the argument was researched statistically, and they got the result. They wrote down the result – which of them was Matzliach. Rabbi Yishmael had practical experience, as against Rabbi Shimon bar Yochay that was counting on miracles (melachto na’aset al yde acherim)
    If we look in NEDARIM 49b we see that Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Shimon took the tools of their trade to the Beth Hamidrash and declared: גדולה מלאכה שמכבדת את בעליה We all know that anyone that does not teach him [his son] a trade – teaches him robbery (Kidushin 30b). Robbery is also meant if one uses the community money for himself. In Avot 2 we see what Rabbi Yehuda Hansi said in this matter: Each Tora that is not accompanied by work is annulled and in the end brings you to sin (You can imagine what kind of sin is meant here). We have also the most daring occupation which a Jew should practice and not be dependent on others. אמר להן, כך מקובלני מבית אבא: לעולם ישכיר עצמו לעבודה זרה ואל יצטרך לבריות (בבא בתרא קי א) This is a practice that was accepted by his father’s father, not just theory.
    As we know, it is not the learning that is important but the doing (ma’ase). It is a pity that so many of the Tora “students” might READ the texts but hardly do LMA’ASE whatever they studied. Do we really think that these people do protect us?


    1. [hat tip from Mayorer Eynikel]

      .לכבוד חנוכה: אבא חרדי ליטאי מספר לבנו על היוונים החזקים שרצו להרוס את עולם התורה.-אבא, איך ניצחנו את היוונים ? -בעזרת השם. -אז בשביל מה המכבים? -הם היו רק החיילים. השם עזר להם בעזרת השם, וברוך השם הם ניצחו … -המכבים היו חיילים?-אה… חיילים של השם, צבאות השם.-אז המכבים היו חב”דניקים-לא! לא! חס וחלילה!! הם היו ליטאים.-ליהודה המכבי היה נשק ?-כן …-אז יהודה המכבי היה חילוני או גוי ?-חס ושלום, מה פתאום חילוני או גוי?-אבל רק חילונים וגויים הולכים לצבא-פעם גם דתיים היו הולכים לצבא.-למה המכבים הלכו לצבא ואנחנו לא?-כי היום התורה שומרת עלינו ..-ואז התורה לא שמרה עליהם ?-אולי תלך עם מוישי לקרוא קצת משניות?-המכבים למדו משניות?-למדו תורה. הרבה תורה .-ולא עבדו?-חס ושלום.-אז אנטיוכוס נתן להם כסף ?-לא . הם עבדו והרוויחו פה ושם.-בשחור כמו דוד יענקי?-יענקי לא עובד בשחור !-אז במה עבד מתיתיהו ?-הוא היה חקלאי.-מתיתיהו היה תאילנדי ?-ד’ ירחם, מה פתאום תאילנדי ?-אז איך הוא עבד בשדה עם חולצה לבנה?-ומנין לך שלבש חולצה לבנה?-מוישי אמר לי שיהודי אמיתי הולך רק עם חולצה לבנה .-אתה מבלה יותר מדי עם המוישי הזה. אבל הוא צודק .-מה רצו המכבים?-הם רצו מדינה יהודית עצמאית, שהם ינהלו אותה .-זהגם מה שאנחנו רוצים?-כן, אבל אסור לנו להגיד את זה. אנחנו לא ציוינים


  2. You are using the wrong criterion. None of the sources you cite are concerned about the “output” of a student’s learning, or whether a student is “exemplary”. On the contrary, the “output” is limmud hatorah, pure and simple, and it makes no difference whether someone is being mechadesh chidushim that have not been heard since Moshe Rabbenu, or struggling through chumash, or he’s Rabbi Preida’s talmid who needed everything explained 400 times.

    All of these talmidim belong in kollel, especially at a time when we so desperately need protection from physical threats that surround us. (The “Bible” may not say that Torah protects, but the Gemara is clear about it, and takes it completely literally. If you think we didn’t see it during the Holocaust, nu, so you have a question, just as the mal’achim had about the Asara Harugei Malchus, but the question doesn’t change the reality.)

    So who belongs in the army or at work? Not the student without brains, but the one without bottom. Not the one who isn’t producing chidushim, but the one who isn’t producing learning, because instead of battling in milchamtah shel torah he’s batteling in the coffee room or the smokers’ corner. Even if he’s the greatest gaon, when he discovers that he can no longer sit still to learn a blatt gemoro it’s time for him to consider other options. When the only reason he’s in the kollel is because if he left he’d have to go to the army or work, then that’s what he should do.


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