Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Sunday, 13 December 2009

Controlling the Monster

Rav Yonasan Rosenblum's latest piece, a statement of the obvious, is an excellent reminder that some in the Chareidi community have not been subsumed by the mindless groupthink that many askanim wish was a requirement for membership.  In it, he notes all the problems a community dedicated to not supporting itself will run afoul of.
(1) Do you think there are any differences of kind, not just magnitude, between the homogeneous group of idealists who rallied to the Chazon Ish’s banner and today’s chareidi community of three-quarters of a million nefashos?


(2) Do you have any idea of the degree of poverty in the chareidi world, including among avreichim? Do you see the chareidi world today as vulnerable? What, for instance, would happen if the Israeli Supreme Court ruled definitively that the state cannot fund schools that do not teach a common curriculum? Israeli welfare payments have grown twice as fast as gross family income over the last two decades. What do you think the impact would be if the Israeli government decided that disparity is unsustainable and imposed another dramatic cut in welfare payments, like the cut in child care allowances under Prime Minister Sharon (with Netanyahu as Finance Minister)?

(3) Do you see any cost to traditional Torah family structure from the assumption that the wife will be both the primary breadwinner and primary caregiver to very large families? Do you think most women are capable of sustaining both roles?

(4) Do you think the Gemara knew what it was talking about when it said that the primary source of marital strife is the lack of money? Do you see poverty having an impact on shalom bayis in the Torah community?

(5) What do you think happens to a eleven-year-old who is already struggling and falling behind in cheder when he asks his father what he is going to be when he grows up and his father tells him his only option is to be an avreich?

(6) Is there any point at which the communal cost in terms of drop-outs and broken families is too great to be sustained without being addressed at its core?
All excellent questions.  The problem is as followed.  As Mary Shelley wrote years ago, Victor Frankstein could create his monster.  Controlling it once it had come to light was the more difficult problem.  The Chazon Ish, zt"l, and his contemporaries were successful in creating a full-time learning society which relied on the outside world for support to continue on.  Rav Rosenblum is obviously correct: the time has come to rein it in and restore a sense of balance to the Chareidi community.
But here's the problem.  Who exactly will go into the batei medrash of Israel and America and shout out: "Hey guys, the Chazon Ish said this would only go on for two generations!  Time's up!  Those of you who are not going to be the next posek hador, get out of here and find jobs!"?  And how many of these pious learners who supposedly live and die by the orders of their "gedolim" will suddenly discover a rebellious streak?

24 comments:

Mikeinmidwood said...

I got blown away by this one.

Devorah said...

I agree so very much, but I was surprised recently to learn the following information:

1) The areas that receive the most Israeli welfare are, in fact, Israeli Arab and Palestinian towns. I have to find the link, but they're in the top three. They work the least, have the most children, do not go to the army, and cost the Israeli government the most.

2) We support an organization called Meir Panim, which feeds the poor in Israel. Their pamphlet shows pictures of non-religious Jews, but the heads of this charity are religious. Since I keep hearing about all the Chareidi poor, I called to ask why these families do not receive assistance. The answer? They don't really need it. The community takes care of them, and provides their food and shelter. Thus, the charity needs to provide for the poor that do not have the support of the collective, which are the non-religious. So the Chareidim are perhaps doing better than we believe.

3) A good many chareidim HAVE applied for jobs in the Israeli workforce. They do not receive them, because they are perceived as "troublemakers", "missionaries", and "drains on the Israeli state from welfare". For all these reasons, they are discriminated against in regards to job applications in favor of mizrachi or non-religious workers.


Therefore, while I agree that the lifestyle of learning Torah may be stifling to the next generation, impossible to support for much longer, these three points alert me to the fact that perhaps - just perhaps! - our complaints with the kollel system are more discriminatory than logical.

In addition, the argument of #3 isn't really applicable. I don't care if you're a two-income family or one-income with the husband working, the woman has the lion's share of work in the household. Sometimes, I'll hear circumstances where the husband does all the cooking/taking care of the children, but honestly, it's rare. I see two-income families where the wife comes home from work and does carpool, takes the kids to checkups and appointments, does the shopping for grocery and clothing, feeds and bathes the kids, and cleans the house. The husband comes home and has supper, then goes out to learn. So it's not a kollel-only problem, it's widespread. And any attempt for the woman to learn extra at night, become a leader in a community, (see: Vosisneias, YWN) is met with such hostility and calls for "stay in the kitchen! take care of the kids!", that this is indicative of a wider problem.

David said...

I don't think it's necessary to reform the Chareidi community; just stop enabling them.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Well that was a big part of R' Rosenblum's piece. How much of their culture is subsidized by the general Israeli public that they so despise? What happens if/when that funding gets cut off? Should they be planning for that and build a more self-reliant system?

Anonymous said...

In the scenario in Eretz Yisroel there is the unnamed,not mentioned monster. The Zahal. If there were no draft there would be far more Chareidi men in the work force.

Midwest

SeekingJustice said...

Great post!

The bottom line here, the next generation of Kolel families will have 0 support, since the money is simply not there. The wealth is gone, therefore as everywhere else in the world the rules of economics and capitalism will kick in and the system will correct itself.

David said...

"How much of their culture is subsidized by the general Israeli public that they so despise? What happens if/when that funding gets cut off? Should they be planning for that and build a more self-reliant system?"

1) Too much.
2) Let's find out!
3) I would if I were them, but, if they all starve, nobody will miss them.

Devorah said...

I don't really understand why the "Zahal" is such a terrible monster, as you put it. Frankly, I think more yeshiva boys should enter the army. One might argue that Torah is also a factor towards the Zahal's ability to win wars, one that I completely agree with, but I do believe that we have quite a lot of individuals who are able to learn Torah while you, 18 year old, can do something else.

Do we really believe that 18 year old Torah learners are saving the country? Aren't there far, far greater men performing this task? It's about time that we stop this ban on going into the army and call it like it is - fear. I'd also be terrified to send my child into the army. But at a certain point, the charedim have to stop expecting someone ELSE'S child to enter the army for them.

Anonymous said...

Devorah,
I am not debating whether they should serve in the Army. The fact is that they believe that being in the Army is a big sakana for their Ruchnias. As a result even those who have no particular interest in being Avraichim will remain in Yeshivos.

It may be like legalizing some narcotics, but the result would be a lot more working Charedim particularly among the Chasidim.

Garnel Ironheart said...

> Do we really believe that 18 year old Torah learners are saving the country?

The more of them that go into the army, the less danger to their ruchniyos. Why couldn't a Hesder model work for them like it does for the Dati Leumi?

Further, I've heard the argument about how their learning protects Israel and I'm tired of it. I doubt there's a single Chareidi kollelleit who is sitting at his shtender and thinking "I've got to learn harder, the state is counting on me!" If kavannah has anything to do with it, then most of their learning has nothing to do with Israel's ongoing survival.

David said...

Amen. They're less worried about preserving their ruchnius than they are about preserving their tuchnius. It's rank cowardice supplemented by laziness. While I'm not sure the army actually wants them, I think it would do the chareidim a world of good to get their hands dirty.

Off the Derech said...

>Further, I've heard the argument about how their learning protects Israel and I'm tired of it.

The Mishna states "the world stands on three things: TORAH, avoda, and chesed." Not one of them is "army."

Off the Derech said...

I think it's unfair of you to not grant them their religious freedom. They're entitled to follow their religion, and if it tells them to not fight in the army, then that's what they'll do. You either respect religious freedom, or you don't. Frankly, I think your religious "beliefs", Garnel, are far more offensive than anyone else's (including Charedim and even bin Laden, mind you) and I'm more than a little sick and tired of thinking you can have it ALL ways. Suck it up, and grow a pair, for christ's sake.

Devorah said...

The vitriol is kinda suprising, OTD. Or have you changed your mind?

While the world can run on Torah, Avoda, and Chesed, no one relies on those things to get food on the table. There's obviously a measure of hishtadlus in our lives. We don't buy lottery tickets, after all. What's so different about the army? Why has it become a religious problem to join the army? It was good enough for the Maccabees, it was good enough for King David, it was good enough for the entire Jewish people who conquered Israel after traveling in the desert.

I find it surprising that the entire world is so very dangerous to our faith, that we must not enter it at all costs. Is our faith so very fragile? Can one not remain a Jew outside of a very strict set of parameters? I ask these rhetorically - I don't know if any of us truly knows the answer. I, however, am concerned about the isolation imposed by such restrictions, and feel that it's excessive, and insulting to Torah to imply that it cannot survive contact with the outside world.

Off the Derech said...

Personally, I think the world can run just fine with the laws of nature. No Torah, avodah, or gemilus chasadim necessary. Be that as it may, this post is not about my beliefs, or yours. It's about Haredim (RWUO) and their religion. I think it's only fair that their beliefs get at least some fair discussion, and while you all may agree, none of you probably qualify as UO and you're more or less preaching to the choir. In other words, you're wasting your time. I grew up with many UO people and maybe 5% of them have Internet access today (I can count on one hand the number of them that have facebook accounts). Inaccess to the Internet is just one of the reasons why they're hardly present when they're being discussed. All I'm saying is it's hopeless.

Garnel Ironheart said...

David, he's very different after his pills have kicked in, as you can see.

I do agree with your ruchnius/tuchnius comment. I would wager that the majority of guys in kollel are bench warmers who are simply avoiding adult responsibility and pretending they're working towards a higher purpose.

There are solutions out there too. A few years there was an essay called "The Black Helmet" which described about construction work was ideal for chareidim. Work crews tend to be all male so no mixing issues. It's manual labour so no internet. Fixed hours and if they're a union it's not like they'll actually be working most of the time so they can still learn. Never went anywhere.

The reason for that, I believe, is that there is a reactionary element within the Chareidi community that says "no" to any suggested changes before the suggestion is even made. It's that attitude that is crippling them more than anything.

David said...

OTD (not that it matters), religious freedom is important-- vital-- in any free society. But, like pretty much all other freedoms, it is not an absolute. I am pretty sure that, were I to demand the right to perform human sacrifices for religious reasons, my appeals to the notion of religious freedom would fall on (rightfully) deaf ears. There is no halakhic reason that hareidim can't serve in the army and there is certainly no halakhic reason that they can't work for a living. I seem to recall that Rabbi Yehoshua in the Talmud was a blacksmith... surely they are not more pious than he?

Shalmo said...

Devorah:

"The areas that receive the most Israeli welfare are, in fact, Israeli Arab and Palestinian towns. I have to find the link, but they're in the top three. They work the least, have the most children, do not go to the army, and cost the Israeli government the most."

Except for the simple fact that arabs are second class citizens in the "Jewish" state remember? And you cannot blame their employment ventures when you and I both know there are only certain jobs they are allowed to gain access to.

"It was good enough for the Maccabees, it was good enough for King David, it was good enough for the entire Jewish people who conquered Israel after traveling in the desert."

Except for the simple fact that the so-called conquest of Canaan by Joshua has repeatedly been proven to be theological Torah propaganda :)

David:

"There is no halakhic reason that hareidim can't serve in the army and there is certainly no halakhic reason that they can't work for a living."

If you are UO the words of the rabbis are the words of Hashem. Halacha has always been what ever the rabbis wish it to be.

Shalmo said...

The haredim are a double-edged sword.

Despite their chaotic nature, we all know that the real reason they are enabled so much by the government is because they are the ones popping up the jewish babies needed to maitain the Jewish majority in Israel.

The future is bleak. Either the haredim take over or the arabs take over.

Off the Derech said...

Garnel, first of all, your construction idea is pathetic. Surely you know that hardly any blue-collar job earns enough to support a haredi lifestyle. The real problem and the one you're avoiding, is education. Their educational system does not give them an education (aside from religious brainwashing), it doesn't prepare them for success in any form, and it further isolated themfrom the works by railing against the evils of basically anyone who's not like them. The problem is not the kollels and blah blah blah. The problem is the system, at its core. The problem is the religion. The problem is Orthodox Judaism. No, not all forms of it. But the mainstream type. And you're kvetching about how they should stop listening to their leaders (!) and start doing things differently will fall on deaf ears. Why should they change theirbway of life if they believe it will get them to heaven? Most of them are sincere bnei Torah who have practically sacrificed their lives for their ideals! Misguided? Certainly. But not dishonest. And hopeless. But they will certainly not listen to the likes of you. These are men of ideals, not pragmatic hypocritical fuchtards like yourself. And you've enabled them all along. Shame on you.

Off the Derech said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Off the Derech said...

Sorry for all the spelling mistakes. I typed this up on my phone.

Devorah said...

Shalmo. Sigh.

"Except for the simple fact that arabs are second class citizens in the "Jewish" state remember? And you cannot blame their employment ventures when you and I both know there are only certain jobs they are allowed to gain access to."

An argument can be made that you can replace the word "arabs" with the ultra orthodox. They, too, only have certain jobs that they are allowed access to, regardless of education. And Arabs are hardly second class citizens. They're actually afforded more rights than many of the Jews living there.

"Except for the simple fact that the so-called conquest of Canaan by Joshua has repeatedly been proven to be theological Torah propaganda :)"

Depends on your definition of "proof". And "propaganda".

David said...

"Hey guys, the Chazon Ish said this would only go on for two generations! Time's up! Those of you who are not going to be the next posek hador, get out of here and find jobs!"?

Another idea-- those of you who ARE going to be the next posek hador should probably be first in line to find a job or serve in the army for a few years before going back and resuming your studies. After all, if you're going to be issuing rulings that will affect your co-religionists, it might not be a bad thing if you had some idea about their lives and experiences.