Eretz Yisrael Time

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Sunday, April 15, 2007
Today is Yom HaShoah in Israel – the day we remember the massacre and attempted genocide of our nation a mere 60 years ago by Germany and her allies. Not so different than today when Iran wants to wipe us out while Germany supplies them with the tools and means to build nuclear weapons.

On the jblogsphere we often see a lot of riling against full time Yeshiva/Kollel students who sit and learn all day instead of working.

I won’t deny that I too see a problem with it, particularly when after having a discussion with some of these full-time learners, I sometimes walk away unimpressed or uninspired by the limited scope of their learning or knowledge.

On the other hand there are others who impress me highly with their learning and acumen.

Over Shabbat someone (whose sons all decided to “turn black” and become full time learners) put it into perspective for me (not her first choice for their lifetime profession, but she is proud that they are serious and real learners).

6 million Jews were wiped out.

We have perhaps 14 million Jews left in the world.

In the US, of the ~6 million Jews around 7% are Orthodox (400,000). In Israel of the ~6 million Jews, around 20% are Orthodox (1,200,000). Let’s throw in another 100,000 for the rest of the world. That gives us 1,700,000 Orthodox Jews in the world to carry on our heritage and message. (If someone thinks they have better numbers I’d love to hear them).

Of that 1.7 million let’s say nearly 10% learn (at whatever level) full time at any given time (150,000) (and that doesn’t mean that their wives don’t work).

(We know that 50,000 in Israel receive draft exemptions for full-time Torah learning, so I tripled that number to account for those that aren’t affected by the draft exemption and for those living in Chul – perhaps far too large a number, but let’s go with it for the sake of the discussion.)

So out of 14 million Jews in the world, just 150,000 Jews learn Torah full time – that’s a mere 1% of our nation ensuring that Torah is studied full time.

And (I’m just guessing), perhaps from those 150,000 perhaps 1% (1500) produces truly unique geniuses and outstanding Torah scholars that advance us (while the rest provide a solid base of continuity).

So let’s think about it, is the production of 1500 exceptional scholars really such a large number and huge drain for our nation of 14 million Jews. Is 1% of our nation learning full time such a drag on our national resources?

Is Kollel then really such a bad thing in the larger perspective?

I might ask at first, “Is that not worth the price?”, but the real question is, “Is this not the minimum we should be doing as a Holy Nation of Priests, and not to mention, to reverse the destruction the Shoah and the Assimilation has and is doing to our nation?”

As a side point, one of the things I don’t like a lot about the Kollel system in general is the free-for-all that many seem to be.

I think that Israeli government funded Kollel students should be required to undergo regular testing to make sure they are using their time properly and advancing. Kollel student should perhaps indicate their Torah specialty or if they are GLs (General Learners). There should be a publish-or-perish system in place to ensure that the Torah they are learning is distributed back to Klal Yisrael. Research Grants should be offered to unique paths of study and to outstanding scholars.

In short, aspects of the academic and Ph.D. system should be introduced into part of the Kollel system. Add some competition. Add some certification. Add some rigor.

Let’s make sure that we are getting “value” for our money and that the learning goes back to the community supporting it – and most importantly, let’s make sure that our investment in Torah is being properly guided towards rebuilding the Jewish nation.


Almost Jerusalem said...

I agree with the gist of your post. To elucidate further, I think the problem with the full-time learning system (especially with respect to Army deferments) is not that "there is no place for full time learning," but rather that full-time learning system is being used as an Army-service-dodge by many people, instead of a system for developing top class Jewish scholars. In other words, if you were to look at the 50,000 army deferments, a legitimate question would be how many of those 50,000 would be full-time learners if their alternative was to get a job instead of serve in the IDF? My understanding is that much of the strain on the system is because many boys/men are effectively forced to be full-time learners when they really aren't suited to it, and that this in turn leads to a lot of the social problems that are found.

If this is correct, then the next question to ask is what, if any changes should be made in Israeli and/or Haredi policy to address this issue? Would a broadening of Nachal Haredi allow more Haredi men to enter the workforce sooner, after serving in the IDF in a Haredi-acceptable group? Should there be some sort of "national service" option for men? Should the Haredim fear IDF service so much, and if N"H in its current implementation doesn't mollify those fears, can it be improved? On the other end of the spectrum, should there be mandatory army service across the spectrum? (For that one, alas, it appears the answer should still be yes...). Does the IDF still need to be the "social integration tool" it has been for assimilating immigrants (and which is probably one of the factors leading the Haredim to oppose allowing their children to serve)?

I don't claim to have the answers, but I would lean towards trying to broaden the Nachal Haredim in a way, with the Haredi community, to try to make that a legitimate option, and to make full-time learning an option only for those truly deserving of communal support (which would require a system like you recommend, to ensure that only top scholars get public funding, just as in the Western academic world only top scholars get their way paid for them).

In theory I like the National Service for men option, but then you get into other questions -- should it be an option for all men? What about Israeli Arabs -- shouldn't they also provide service in some way? If it is an option for all men, wouldn't that effectively turn the army into an all volunteer army, and if that were to happen would we be able to defend ourselves from the existential threats that still exist? This might be more of a Pandora's box than we'd like at this time.

J. "יהוא בן יהושפט בן נמשי" Izrael said...

You stole one of the main points of my next (or the one after the next - something else came up) post! OK, some disagreements or different views here and there - but the main point was focusing on the numbers. Incredible how some whine about kollels, while glorifying the vilest elements in secular society which are 1000000 times more detrimental AND parasitic than kollel - but I guess sone'i Yisroels never die. They just have a high turnover rate.

Lion of Zion said...

from a perspective of resource allocation, however, your 1% is misleading because it does not take into account the large (baruch hashem) families of those 1%. so in toto i think you are looking at more than 1%, especially in israel.

Anonymous said...

Quite the post, Joe. Nice work.

Anonymous said...

Dont buy it. In the Tora, which our co-religious people base their lives on, the MEN went to war. If your numbers are correct, let 1500 pass a test and be exempt. The rest I want sleeping in tents doing basic training, and learning tora.

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