Talmidei Chachomim earning a living

I have written about this here.

I don’t always agree with Rav Aviner. For example, I disagree vehemently with his attitude towards Rabbi Elon. On the issue below [Hat tip NB]  he is undoubtedly right. There isn’t any reason someone who knows Torah and continues to learn should be a pauper. If they do want that, perhaps they should set up a Kollel in Vietnam?

Prominent Dati Leumi Posek Rabbi Shlomo Ha-Cohain Aviner Shlit”a addressed a statistic reporting that 40% of Charedim do not work. The Rav stated that due to the economic realities in Israel today, an Avreich (married Yeshiva student) must learn a profession that permits him to support his family. “A Talmid Yeshiva cannot remain in Yeshiva indefinitely. He must earn a living and it is not enough to say ‘Hashem will take care of things and it will be fine’”.

He told students during a Shiur that there are Avreichim who go to soup kitchens daily, and that in some Charedi homes children regularly go hungry.  That is why a husband must be able to earn a living. A Talmid can learn for a number of years as everyone must, but at some point one must reflect and determine if one will be a Rav or Rebbe and if not, it is time to look for work. The Rav added that not everyone is suited to be a Rav or Rebbe, though most believe they are, and while one may be a Talmid Chacham there is still the issue of earning a livelihood. Batei Medrashim are bursting with Talmidei Chacham that do not have work because all of the jobs in the Yeshivot are taken.

The Rav then addressed Avreichim who used to make do with the bare minimum. “Once upon a time, man slept on straw like Rabbi Akiva and this was fine.  But today it is not possible to live like this. We may sleep on straw but how will one pay tuition for one’s children? One does not have to eat Prili (type of fruit yogurt) daily but even when living austerely there is a need for money to pay for different necessities.  We cannot change reality with Pilpul. Perhaps in Vietnam one can survive on one dollar a day but in Israel it is impossible.”

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.

16 thoughts on “Talmidei Chachomim earning a living”

  1. Perhaps, but there are those who expect to be able to sit and learn at the public’s or at least ‘der schver’s’ expense (Emphasis on ‘expect’).

    If individuals want to pursue a life of talmud torah that’s their choice so long as they can support and provide for their family and not have to depend on tzedoka or government handouts.

    Unfortunately there are almonahs bringing up families and wherever possible they look for work in order to provide for them. Why should it be any different for men?
    Harsh though the government’s decision to cut much welfare support is, if it breaks this culture of reliance on the public purse then it is a good thing.

    Back in the 80’s George Thoroughgood (I don’t expect many to remember or have heard of him) wrote a song: “Get a haircut and get a real job!” – the protagonist’s dream was to play in a rock band our protagonists here desire to sit and learn (be a talmid chacham???) however, barring the haircut, the message is the same!


    1. This reminds me of a saying.
      There was a SHIDUCH and the bride’s to be father went to meet the future bridegroom. He asked him:

      “How will you support your wife?” he asked. The bridegroom replied: “with G-d’s help.”
      “Will you be able to support your family?” The bridegroom replied: “with G-d’s help.”
      “Have you got a home for you to live in?” The bridegroom replied: “with G-d’s help.”
      The bride’s father returned home. His wife asked him: “Nu! how were you impressed by our future son in law?”
      “Very impressed. He thinks that I am G-d.” He replied

      Just a bit of humor


    2. Here – With A Little Bit O’ Luck Lyrics from My Fair Lady:

      The Lord above gave man an arm of iron
      So he could do his job and never shirk.
      The Lord above gave man an arm of iron-but
      With a little bit of luck, With a little bit of luck,
      Someone else’ll do the blinkin’ work!
      With a little bit…with a little bit…
      With a little bit of luck you’ll never work

      (Eliza’s father, Alfred P. Doolittle)

      Does it refer to the Bachurim in Kolels?


  2. When I got married I had to sign a contract – Ktuba. There were also witnesses who verified my signature. Among other things the contract contained:
    הֱוִי לִי לְאִנְתּוּ כְּדַת מֹשֶׁה וְיִשְׂרָאֵל וַאֲנָא בְּמֵימְרָא וּבְסִיָיעְתָּא דִּשְׁמַיָא אֲפַלַח וְאוֹקִיר וַאֲכַלְכֵּל וַאסוֹבֵר וַאֲכַסֵי יְתִיכִי לִיכִי כְּהִלְכוֹת גּוּבְרִין יְהוּדָאִין דּפָלְחִין וּמוֹקְרִין וְזָנִין וּמְפַרְנְסִין וּמְכַלְכְּלִין וְסוֹבְרִין וּמְכַסִין יָת נְשֵׁיְהוֹן בְּקוֹשְׁטָא.
    that means that I am obliged to have a PARNOSO to support my wife.
    I wonder, if a married man, who does not go out to work, is not breaking his contract, and therefore his marriage is annulled?


    1. It depends on the translation of אֲפַלַח. Rabbenu Eliyohu holds that it means you will go to work if necessary to earn money to fulfill the rest of the contract, but Rabbenu Tam denies this, and says that if you can’t fulfill the terms of the contract because you have no money you can’t be forced to work, and אֲפַלַח has other meanings.


        1. Again, Rabbenu Tam holds that אֲפַלַח does not mean that he has to get a job, and a clear majority of poskim hold like him. Exactly what it does mean is a matter of some discussion, as described at the link I gave. That is the situation, whether you like it or not.


          1. As far as I know, there was a case that a person died and his estate could not pay all his debts. The court ruled that the KETUBA had a priority over other debts, as everyone knows, and all the other creditors knew, that every married Jewish woman has a SHTAR KTUBA.
            ואפלח is translated אני אעבוד “I shall work” or עאשה מלאכה. There is no ambiguity in the translation. It is a straight forward ordinary word in Aramaic. When you signed the Shtar Ktuba, did you know the obligations you took on yourself? The Shtar Ktuba is in Aramaic, as this was MAME LOSHON at that time, by that ensuring that the bridegroom fully understands the document he is signing. Maybe that today it should be written in a language understood by the bridegroom. Many times, in Israel, the main points are read out in Hebrew.
            Kvod Milhouse; I think that you made a mistake about Rabenu Tam’s translation of ואפלח. There is no contradiction with the translation – work or practice a trade. His opinion, as against others, is that he [the husband] does not have to go out and seek employment with others אבל להשכיר עצמו למלאכה [אצל אדם אחר] אינו חייב (תוספות כתובות סג א). He still has to work or practice a trade. Your second statement of Rabenu Tam is partly correct – “does not mean that he has to get a job”, but you forgot to mention that even in Rabenu Tam’s opinion he should work (in the fields) or be self employed in another trade. You also say: “a clear majority of poskim hold like him [Rabenu Tam].” I am not sure about that. Besides, what do you mean by “like him”? That he has to work as self employed but does not have to seek an outside job? He still has to work to earn a living and support his wife.
            I cannot believe that one signs a document without knowing what it contains! If it did that, maybe that all the wedding is a MEKACH TAUT, and the paper worth as a KLIPAT HASHUM for LATZUR AL PI TZLOCHITO. The bridegroom does not need Rabenu Tam or any other POSKIM, he needs to know on what he puts his signature. He sits quite some time with the MSADER KIDUSHIM and other learned people to find out what he signs. Do you think that he can get away by saying: “I signed according to Rabenu PLONI”. If he does not like the PERUSH of Rabenu Ploni, he can always say that his signature was according to Rav Almoni. If he does not like any of them, he can say that ואפלח in his opinion is that the wife should go out to work.
            From the opinions here, it seems that the bridegroom does not sign a DOCUMENT, the obligations he takes on himself is still debated (maybe we should postpone the wedding till an agreement is reached)! If there is an ambiguity, let the signatory clarify what HE means. If it is a standard document, the meaning is to be clarified before signing, and not leave it knowingly unclear. Do you think that the Shtar Ktuba is just a piece of paper signed traditionally at a Jewish wedding? If so, why bother with it? Why having it witnessed?
            In my humble opinion, a Shtar Ktuba is a SHTAR and contract. You cannot escape the issue by saying “that is the situation, whether you like it or not.” Saying that means that the Shtar Ktuba is a piece of paper, and the husband’s obligation are not in the Ktuba but with some Poskim. I do not think that a Jewish Wedding Contract is meaningless. It has to be witnessed and signed by at least two witnesses.
            I am always surprised that the ring is put on the bride’s finger before the reading of the Ktuba. Wouldn’t it be fair to let the bride know the contents of the contract signed by her future husband before accepting the ring? What is the point of reading it after she is already Mkudeshet?
            שבת שלום


  3. The Satmar Rebbe Ztz”l said that “saying Parshas Hamon(as last Tues as segulah for parnassa), only helps until 9am. After that, one needs to go to work”.


      1. Rabbi A Twerski touches a little on this in his column in the hamodia. “My grandfather the Kedushas Tzion of Bobov ZY”A would rub snow from the first snowfall on his forehead. He would smile and say, “I don’t believe in this, but my mother said it is a segulah for good memory, and I wish to fullfill ‘Do not abandon your mother’s teaching’ ”


  4. The two-volume works of Reb Shlomo was printed after his death (in 1966) based on some of his published and manuscripted writings as well as writings of his students. It was released by Rav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz , one of Rav Shlomo’s greatest living students. It is called Chiddushei Rabbi Shlomo and is widely used by many yeshivas when studying the Talmud. It is considered a basic text among late acharonim . Recently a new volume was published based on the notes of his students: Shiurei Rabbi Shlomo (Rudensky Family Edition), with the approbations of some of Rav Shlomo’s great living talmidim in addition to other gedolim. His “talmid muvhak” was Rabbi Meir Greenberg, later a Chabad rav in Patterson, New Jersey and a rosh yeshiva in Tomchei Tmimim in Morristown, N.J. Rabbi Greenberg wrote Rabbi Heiman’s shiurim, many of which were printed later on.


  5. Exactly. Too many expect that Hashem will provide when it is the poor slob trying to earn a wage who is providing, more often than not, to his own detriment. Get up before work to learn, learn during breaks, and learn when the kids are in bed. This is what many who work and study have to do ( be it university or yeshiva).
    There is no justification in making the children and wife do without because of one’s surge to learn. I cannot imagine my family going to bed hungry and doing without the necessities because of this. I am disturbed that anyone could. Perhaps disgusted is a better word for it.
    If one would stop for just a second and look into what they are learning as opposed to learning just to say they have studied something, then perhaps there will be more people taking responsibility for themselves, their families and society.
    Using Hashem as a fallback will lose its appeal once the money stops flowing in.


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