Volume 14 Number 58
                       Produced: Fri Jul 29 13:01:16 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         ["R. Shaya Karlinsky"]
Yeshiva Tuition.
         [Michael Lipkin]


From: "R. Shaya Karlinsky" <msbillk@...>
Date: Thu, 28 Jul 1994 00:42:44 +0300 (WET)
Subject: Chumrot

     The discussion of chumrot has covered a lot of ground.  As one who is
involved in the education of Jews who have limited backgrounds in Torah
observance, I have found the issue of chumrot to be a particularly
problematic area in their development.  With no tradition to follow, they
are susceptible to much confusion and imbalance in this area. The fact
that the Orthodox community at large seems to have become confused over
this issue during the last decade of two (frequently breaking loose from
their own tradition) has only made the Ba'al Tshuva's situation more
     Rav Shlomo Volbe, shlita, in Alei Shur, V.2 has a chapter called
"Frumkeit" (page 152).  Some of the points he raises there can inform our
discussion about chumrot, as well as other issues that seem to trouble
this wonderful "thinking" group of mail.Jewish readers.  My understanding
of some of his thoughts follow.  (If you take issue with what I write,
please learn carefully that chapter and the following one to let me know
if you think I have misunderstood something, or if you disagree with Rav
     "Frumkeit" is an instinctive drive to relate to the Almighty Creator.
It is found even among animals (see Tehilim 104:21, 147:9) While this
instinct makes the very difficult job of _serving_ G-d somewhat easier for
us, this drive is rooted in egocentrisim, as are all instincts.  It
motivates us to act only in so far as we perceive personal benefit, and as
such cannot be a source for true "bein adam l'chaveiro" (interpesonal
mitzvot) nor for true "lishma," doing the Mitzvah for a purpose that
transcends ones own well being.
     (This may be the appropriate place for me to interject that doing a
Mitzvah to earn Olam HaBah can be very egocentric.  Our culture has
perfected the attitude of always looking for the payoff.  What's in it for
me.  Sometimes the payoff can be more money, sometimes it can be prestige,
maybe power or fame.  And we, as Torah Jews, recognize (hopefully) that
there might be an even bigger payoff.  Better than winning the lottery or
the Super Bowl - Olam HaBah, with all the images we have of the absolutely
most fantastic and pleasurable experiecne we could possibly imagine.  But
if we are doing what we do - our Mitzvot - for the payoff, it is rooted in
our egocentrism.  We are looking out for number 1.  We just have a more
inflated and more accurate picture of what serves as a payoff.  True
"lishma" means we are doing it to SERVE the Creator, in appreciation of
what He has given us, and/or in fulfillment of the mission for which we
were created.  We are doing it for HIM, and for the sake of fulfilling our
responsibility, the true defenition of Lishma.  The reward, Olam Habah,
happens to be a reality, and we always want to be aware of reality
(difficult in our media-saturated culture), but it is not supposed to be
the motivating factor.  When the payoff is the motivation, you may have a
more sophisticated sense than your non-religious/ non-Jewish neighbor of
what constitutes a valuable payoff.  But it is the payoff that you are
     Proper service of G-d has to be built on "Da'at" - accurate, deep
understanding of what G-d wants from us, as revealed in the Torah.  The
common denominator of the seven cases of "Chasid Shoteh" (stupid piety)
listed in Sotah 22b is a lack of Da'at. Any desire to become closer to G-d
must be based on a deep understanding of where man really stands in
relation to G-d, and HOW to get closer him.  We must have our feet firmly
on the ground, and our relationship with G-d is firmly rooted in our
ACTIONS in the real, physical world.  The drive and excessive focus on
"getting closer to G-d" (especially in our quick-fix, microwave society)
emanates from "Frumkeit," that instinctual desire to reach spiritual
     True closeness to G-d is attained by a deep sense of humility.  "The
humble are elevated by G-d to dwell with Him" (Sotah 5a).  True humility
goes hand in hand with a deep commitment to SERVICE.  We recognize our
role as one of faithfully implementing the responsibilities placed upon us
by G-d. (Not to earn more brownie points, and not to get a better seat in
the stadium.)
     Egocentric motivations based on the drive to be "Frum" can be
especially misleading.  Rav Volbe quotes the famous story of Rav Yisrael
Salanter who didn't show up one Yom Kippur night for Kol Nidrei.  On the
way home, the people found him in a house rocking a crying baby - whose
mother had gone to Kol Nidrei rather than staying home to take care of her
infant.  She was in search of her personal feeling (!) of spiritual
elevation, rather than doing what G-d wanted her to do at that moment and
under those circumstances.  Rav Yisrael couldn't pass by the crying baby,
even to go to Kol Nidrei; and he was sending a message to the mother that
our spiritual priorities are determined by responsibilities of service -
which is a Mitzvah - rather than by what makes us "feel frum" - which can
well be an aveirah.
     This is caused by "Frumkeit" without "Da'at".  "Grabbing Angels," in
Rav Volbe's terminology. True closeness to G-d is attained by honest
submission and deference to the will of G-d, coupled with clarity and deep
     This is the gist of the chapter in Alei Shur.  The words speak for
themselves, but I hope a few of my own insights of how this applies will
move the discussion to the practical (and ruffle a few feathers?).
     If my pursuit of Chumrot is viewed as a way to earn more reward, then
it has nothing to do with service. The idea expressed by a number of
writers in how they explain chumrot to their children as "G-d will like us
better if we do it this way" falls dangerously close to this attitude.
The alternative "G-d expects this level of observance/service from us" is
better.  But of course, why would he only expect that "premium" level of
service in our milk or meat or negel-vasser near our bed, and not also
expect it in our level of tzedaka giving, or true love and support of Jews
with views that differ from ours, or critical standards in determining
what are necessities and what are luxuries, or in the commitment to the
quantity and quality of our Torah study.  Why do we want to avoid relying
on (possibly lenient) opinions that served the Jewish community well for
decades?  Is it is because we want to be "frummer" than our grandparents?
Or is it because we realize that G-d has given us more resources with
which to serve him than he gave them, and as such our service
responsibilities have increased?  If it is truly the latter (as I would
like to hope) then how hard are working to identify, to clarify, to
understand, the scope of those responsibilities.  And how careful are we
about discharging all of them, not just the relatively easy or highly
visible ones.  Is there a consistency in our level of chumrot?  Rav Volbe
makes the point very sharply that chumrot are not a "risk free" endeavor.
A chumra in one area of our observance has the very strong potential to
enable us to rationlize laxity in another area.  THAT is not true service.
     Which leads me to the issue of humility.  The fact that chumrot cause
one-upmanship, strife, discomfort almost guarantees that they are being
performed with a feeling of superiority.  The opposite of the road to
truly getting closer to G-d.  Why does everyone have to broadcast their
own and investigate their neighbor's level of chumrot?   What I am about
to write is in no way a psak.  But it should raise the question which
needs careful consideration for each case on its merits by a VERY
competent LOR.  In Halacha we have a concept of "yesh al mi lismoch," one
has a basis for following a certain behaviour.  There is a concept of
"hefsed merubeh," great loss, which explicitly allows leniencies.  Why is
the embarrasment or discomfort of another Jew considered so dispensable, a
clear leniency in one area of Halacha, in order for one to follow a strict
opinion in another area?  I am not, chas v'chalila!, suggesting eating
something which is not Kosher to avoid embarrassing someone.  (Although
finding a way to avoid the embarrassment has to be as high on the agenda
as avoiding the food.)  But if there are accepted opinions on the lenient
side, then "DA'AT," proper and deep understaning of the Halacha and the
tradeoffs, may absolutely require relying on the more lenient opinion in
those circumstances.
     A number of people have written that increasing chumrot is an easy
way out of really having to know and understand the Halacha.  "When in
doubt, do without."  The combination of a community having many chumrot
along with much "am aratzut" (ignorance of Halacha and an understanding of
Torah) would lend credence to that observation, but not be very
encouraging in assessing the true spiritual level of the community.  Being
machmir in one area of Halacha while not following basic Halacha in
another area isn't a question of whether the glass is half full or half
empty.  It indicates a lack of understanding of the purpose of Torah.  Man
is an integrated whole.  His Spiritual growth has to reflect that.

Shaya Karlinsky                              POB 35209
Yeshivat Darche Noam/Shapell's               Jerusalem
Midreshet Rachel for Women                   Tel:972-2-511178
Israel                                       Fax:972-2-520801


From: <msl@...> (Michael Lipkin)
Date: Thu, 28 Jul 1994 10:16:11 -0400
Subject: Yeshiva Tuition.

In MJ 14:49 Esther Posen asks:

>Are there some school board members out there who have a better idea of
>what the actual figures are and where some of this money goes?

I'm a member of the board of directors of a day school (nursery - 8th
grade) with over 500 students.

Over the past few weeks people have had many comments, suggestions,
accusations, etc., regarding yeshiva tuition.  I'll attempt to address a
few them based on what I know from involvement in this yeshiva.

- The people running the yeshiva are not a bunch of heartless
  administrators bent on squeezing every penny out of the parent body.
  A large part of the responsibility of the principal and board of
  education is to find ways to improve the quality of education.  This
  costs money.  In addition, a large and vocal contingent of the parent
  body is always demanding better teachers, more specialists, newer and
  more computers, etc., etc.  This too costs money.  These needs must
  be balanced against a large and vocal contingent (some of whom
  intersect with the above mentioned contingent) of the parent body who
  get extremely upset whenever tuition is increased.  The board of
  directors must resolve these conflicts while maintaining a balanced

- The process of setting a budget and forecasting tuition needs is, at
  best, an educated guessing game.  Slight fluctuations in projected
  numbers of students can have a major impact on tuition depending on
  whether the gain/loss of students causes an increase/decrease in
  professional staff.

- Tuition comprises the overwhelming majority of our yeshiva's income.
  The remainder comes from fund raising and an allocation from our
  local federation.  By far the greatest expense is for salaries.
  Though teacher's salaries have come a long way in recent years, they
  are still embarrassingly low considering the importance of this
  profession.  The remainder of the expenses are very straight-forward,
  just what you would expect, costs of running a school.  There's
  little waste and there's nothing subversive going on.

- If you took the total budget and divided it by the total number of
  students you'd have a very rough estimate of the cost per student.
  It's rough because there are lots of fixed costs that do not
  fluctuate with the number of students, e.g. infrastructure,
  administrative salaries, utilities, etc.  Even the cost for teacher's
  salaries is not easily linked to the number of students.  For
  example, if you add 1 student to a class of 25 (we're pretty strict
  on a 25 student per class limit) you end up with 2 classes of 13 with
  the cost of an additional teacher.  Whereas, you could add 5 students
  to a class of 20 with no salary increase.  This fungibility makes
  formulations like, 20 students x $5000 = $100,000, somewhat

- I can't explain why some tuitions have gone from $1000 to $10000
  in the past 30 years.  Personally, my parents paid $1000 30 years ago
  and I'm paying around $5000 now.  To me that seems pretty much in
  line with inflation of other services.  I know of a high school whose
  tuition is in the $10,000 range.  They have new facilities and the
  starting salary for full-time teachers is reputed to be around $40K.
  Again, given these factors, this tuition does not seem unreasonable
  either.  (This in no way means that I would be able to pay two or
  three of them!) 

- Tuition assistance is treated as an expense in the budget, and it is
  significant.  However, to say that people paying full tuition are
  subsidizing those who aren't may not be totally accurate.  There is
  significant income that is dedicated to tuition assistance, mostly
  from fund raising.  Also, if you take the rough cost per student
  mentioned above, it is somewhat more than the cost of full tuition.
  So even those paying full tuition are not fully covering the cost.
  Some of this excess derives from people who donate money to the
  yeshiva with the knowledge that it is a Torah institution that does
  not turn people away because of a lack of ability to pay.

- Looking at the yeshiva's budget one does not see much excess.  If
  anything there are a lot of places where spending could be increased,
  but is not, due to a sensitivity to the level of tuition.  Though it
  may not be much comfort, I think yeshiva tuition in general is a
  relatively good value.  My local municipality spends around $9000 per
  student, New York City spends around $13,000 and I know of a secular
  private school in Manhatten where tuition is $15,000.

As Joe Weisblatt indicated, the only real way to bring down tuition
costs is by external fund raising.  However, I don't think we need to
find incentives for new ideas.  Ideas proliferate, but there's a dearth
of people willing or able to implement them.  I went to 2 dinners this
past year for right wing type yeshiva high schools/kolels.  Each with
no more than 100-150 students.  What I witnessed was incredible. The
number of people at the dinners and the size of the journals put our
day school to shame.  At the table during one of these dinners I
uncouthly added up the value of just the full page journal ads and it
came to over $200,000!  Also, at this particular dinner there was an
appeal made to retire the yeshiva's existing mortgage so they could
embark on a $3,000,000 expansion of an already stunning, modern

There's still plenty of money out there.



End of Volume 14 Issue 58