Volume 23 Number 33
                       Produced: Wed Mar  6 22:43:02 1996

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Stan Tenen]
Kollel and After
         [Avraham Husarsky]
         [Meir Shinnar]
Showing Up in Kollel
         [Warren Burstein]


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Thu, 29 Feb 1996 09:27:26 -0800
Subject: Kollel

As a person who does not have a Yeshiva education, I have no experience
of Kollel learning and little or no knowledge of Kollels.  However, I
have been reading the discussions here on m-j (and elsewhere) and I
notice, what to me, is a major omission in the discussion.  The _same_
omission also occurs in full-time academia.

Neither academia nor the Kollel prepares a person for the REAL world.
Whatever the grandeur of Torah (or academic) learning, as long as it is
disconnected from _hands on_ real world work, it can never reach its
full potential.  Worse, severe distortions in understanding can result.

I do not believe it is possible to understand Torah and Talmud, let
alone Kabbalah, unless a person has worked with the sweat of their brow
in the real world.  I have often quoted (or paraphrased) Ain Dorshin on
this.  If a person engages in Mystakel, it were better if they were not

What is "mystakel?"  Mystakel is learning without doing. 

It is no mystery to me that kabbalistic knowledge is now mostly confused
and lost to us.  It is simply not possible to "head-trip" wisdom.  No
amount of debate about what the Amorim said or meant, no amount of
Talmudic argument, no amount of dedicated Torah study, can accomplish
anything by itself.  A person is not judged by what they know, but by
what they do.

Torah is to be lived.  This is not a matter of keeping mitzvot and
halacha - although that is necessary.  A person must actually
internalize and make use of what they are taught.  Otherwise, it is all

A personal example is in order here.  For most of the years that I
researched the sequences of letters in B'Reshit, I did so as an
interested secular person.  I was looking at Jewish teachings without
living them.  I made real progress in understanding the alphabet and
B'Reshit, but I could not get past a logical and spiritual bottleneck
that impeded further understanding.  Eventually I met a (well known)
rebbe (who I have mentioned here before) and, over several years, he got
on my case.  He insisted that I say the morning prayers - with Tefillin.

I was embarrassed to actually put on Tefillin because that, to me then,
crossed the line into ritual superstition.  My exaggerated pride in my
rationality prevented me from reducing myself to a superstitious
religious person.  But, this rebbe insisted and because I had grown to
respect his knowledge and wisdom, I felt I had an obligation to take his
advice.  (There is much more to this story.)

Now I _knew_ all about Tefillin.  I had all the mystakel understanding,
but I had never put on Tefillin.  When I first bound the Tefillin strap
on my hand, I was startled.  The beautiful solution to a problem that
had bedeviled my logic for over 3-years was immediately apparent.  The
model that I found (in B'Reshit) that generated the Hebrew letters was
until that moment a mathematical abstraction.  The moment I went beyond
mystakel and bound the Tefillin strap on my hand, I realized that the
Tefillin strap on my hand was exactly the solution to my problem.

If I had researched the vortex form that I found in B'Reshit only with
my reason, if I had used only logic, if I had viewed only the pure
geometric form on the computer screen, I would have _understood_ it
completely.  But if I had not put in on my own hand - done the _hands
on_ real physical mitzvot (work), then I would never have been able to
identify the letter generating form and my work would have remained
incomplete and sterile.

I know that this sounds harsh, but I have come to believe that a person
who learns full-time in a Kollel (or in academia) is bound to the limits
of mystakel.  I have come to believe that _this_ is the most important
reason why our kabbalistic (science-of-consciousness) heritage has been
lost and bastardized and why our current Gedolim cannot and will not see
what is in front of them.

Do not misunderstand what I am saying.  I am a conservative here.  I
believe that Kollel and academic learning are essential.  We must keep
the Kollels and their students, but we must insist that all potential
gedolim WORK with their hands for a living.

Academic and Kollel study, by itself, is in part, in my opinion, what
Rabbi Kook was referring to when he said that evil exists when the part
usurps the whole.  The evil here is our current, clearly inadequate,
understanding of Torah.  The whole is when we combine Binah
(understanding based on mystakel) with Chochma (wisdom based on real
world hands on experience.)

One more thought lest anyone believe that these are merely academic
issues.  We daily bemoan the antagonism between secular Jews and
Israelis and observant Jews.  Each side points fingers at the other.
Neither side seems to believe that it is responsible for repairing the

But, given a rich and wise person and a poor and foolish person are
fighting, who has the responsibility to repair the situation?  Surely
the person who is poor and foolish CANNOT do the job.  Thus, it must be
the responsibility of the rich and wise person to repair the damage.
The rich and the wise are acting in their own interest and, because the
poor and the foolish person cannot do it for themselves, the rich and
the wise person must also act in the interest of the poor and the
foolish person.

Today we have two camps shouting at each other.  Both the orthodox-
religious and the secular-scientific communities believe that they are
the rich and the wise.  Yet each waits for the other to take action, and
neither knows what to do.  This, in my opinion, is a self-condemnation.
If our orthodox communities REALLY do retain the riches and wisdom of
Torah, then it is inescapable that we are the ones responsible for
reaching the secular community.  If we cannot or will not do this, I say
that this teaches us that current orthodox learning is defective.  I say
it is our job to fix this, and I say that one essential ingredient that
must be added to Jewish education is real world hands on experience at
every stage in life.  I say that sequestering students leads to the
sterility of our current learning.

So, I propose that no one be accepted as a Gedol in Torah unless they
work with their hands.  This excludes pill-pushers and includes
surgeons.  This excludes those who read Torah and includes those who
chant and write Torah.  This excludes librarians and includes persons
who read and write books.  This does not mean that pill-pushing, Torah
reading and book cataloging are not also necessary and honorable
professions.  It just means that a person who does not do more is not
qualified for the status of gedol.

Kollel is fine, but first we do, and then we understand.



From: <hoozy@...> (Avraham Husarsky)
Date: Tue, 27 Feb 96 19:46:40 msk
Subject: Kollel and After

>From: <Mordechai.E.Lando@...>
>Kollel and after from the perspective of a father, shver,board of
>education member, and labor economist. 
>Many of the posters on the Kollel topic are harboring bizzare
>misconceptions concerning what is really happening in the world of
>learning.  The vast majority (over 90%) of those entering kollel do not
>regard this as their lifetime job.  Many, even before entering kollel,
>have some conception of what they will want to do after kollel.  Most
>frequently this involves going into chinuch; more recently rabbanus has
>also become an option.

Many of the posters on this list are VERY aware through personal
experience of what is really happening in the charedi/yeshivah world. We
do not have to post our yeshivah resumes to justify our opinions.  Your
descriptions seem to fit the yeshivah university or yeshivot hesder mold
of kollelim (or at best a ner israel/baltimore type of institution).
The reality in the more yeshivish world is better reflected by the
"bizarre misconceptions" of earlier posters.

Name: Avraham Husarsky         
E-mail: <hoozy@...>, avraham.husarsky@pobox.com, 
        <lucifer@...>, ahuz@netvision.net.il


From: <meir_shinnar@...> (Meir Shinnar)
Date: Tue, 13 Feb 96 12:03:33 EST
Subject: Kollelim

Some more comments on the thread of kollel, which has generated a great
deal of input.

    The defense of Kollel has had, by my estimate four different,
although complementary approaches.  One major approach (Mrs. Posen, Ira
Benjamin) emphasizes that because Talmud Torah is of such benefit to Am
Israel, we should be glad to pay for it. The second ( Mrs.  Posen)
emphasizes that kollel allows its participants to achieve a level of
kdusha not achievable by those constrained by jobs. Thirdly, we pay for
the kollelim to make up for our own lack of learning.  Lastly, there is
the defense of the necessity of training the next generation of gdolim.

        The first approach, to cite a pro Kollel poster
>   They deserve all the donations they can get because
>   they contribute to each and every one of us every minute that they are
>   learning....   All the money that we give to Kollelim, we get back a 
>    thousand-fold, JUST BY THEM CONTINUING TO SIT AND LEARN.  Nothing more.

    To cite the Ramah, representing main stream Ashkenazi psak
    Yoreh Deah 246:21
    Anyone who decides to sit and learn and not earn a livelihood and be 
    supported by charity is mehallel hashem and denigrates (mevaze) hatorah

     He then goes on to give  exemptions, such as the sick, the elderly, 
    and those needed by the community, and by extension, the training of 
the  next generation.  The justification is social necessity for the  
continuation of Torah learning, not as a priori that somene who wants 
to  learn deserves our support.  Support just to sit and learn is 
explicitly forbidden by the  Rama and most  classical sources.  Will the 
Kollel supporter say that the Rama does not adequately value the 
contribution of Talmud Torah?  The gap  between  the Torah approach of the Rama 
and those 
of the pro kollel community is tremendous. No kollel bahur would eat a 
hashgacha that relied on the heterim needed to support the current kollel 
system.  (This includes not just the reliance on communal funds for self 
improvement.  There are also  heterim needed to accept non Jewish charity 
such as food stamps and government housing(Yoreh Dea 254:1, to solicit funds for 
Torah study rather than receiving them freely, etc.  The Taz on YD:246:21 says  
that while the Rav may accept a salary, he may not ask for presents, as that is 
a kiur hagadol - great ugliness -that is mevazim hatora velomdeha - brings shame 
on the Torah and its learners. The current proliferation of meshulachim is 
living proof of this.)

This argument has another disturbing aspect.  As one  wrote, 
>Torah is the WHOLE of our existence. 
 This is the transformation of Talmud Torah from the study of Hashem's Torah to 
guide our lives to the study of esoteric, magical texts whose mere 
study is enough.  This line of argument is also frequently heard in the  
comparison of the kollel student to the soldier.  

 R. Chaim of Brisk, when asked to define the role of a Rav, said that it 
is to "redress the grievances of those who are abandoned and alone, to 
protect the dignity of the poor, and to save the oppressed from the hands 
of his oppressors".  Clearly, R. Chaim valued greatly Torah lishma (Torah 
for its own sake).  Just as clearly, while Torah guides and commands every 
facet of our existence, it is not our whole existence. 
      The second approach
   >   Because its members are involved with Torah, there homes, more often
> than not, are permeated with Torah...  
>one chooses a social system, despite its imperfections, because one
>thinks its benefits outweigh its drawbacks.
    The problem with the second approach is that focuses on the subjective 
feelings of the individual.  By looking at the Rama, it is clear that one's 
personal sense of kdusha and fulfilment is merely a mirage  if it is 
achieved at communal expense.  Furthermore, the underlying  implication is 
that one can not live in the "real world" and live a Torah life.  I think 
that that is a bizayon hatorah. 

 Lastly, basing religious and halachic decisions on the basis of subjective 
feelings rather than objective halachic criteria is highly dangerous.  Art 
Waskow, lehavdil, feels that he enhances the kdusha of his shabbat by the 
community dancing naked after dipping in a lake.  I am far more sympathetic to 
the kollel notion of kdusha and Torah, but we should base it on objective 

    The third approach

>      By supporting those who have
>devoted themselves to full-time learning, maybe we can come to Hashem
>after 120 years and say, yes, our books are balanced, for even though I
>myself did not have the strength or fortitude to learn full time, but I
>contributed to those who do, and thereby fulfilled my obligations.

Unfortunately, the practice of buying indulgences is a Roman Catholic 
one,not a Jewish one.  Perhaps we need a Jewish Luther (lehavdil elef 
alfei ..) to rid us of this idea.  Indeed, 
the emphasis that one's part time Torah learning is not enough, and that 
one should instead support the kollelim who can learn for us, has done 
much to reduce the general level of learning.  To the extent the midrash 
of Yisssachar and Zevulun is quoted, it does not mean that one just writes a 
check to absolve oneself of learning.

Again, not a single poster has cited a single halachic source justifying 
the current system of kollel.

    The real support of Kollel can come from the  fourth position, that we
    are grooming future gdolim and communal leaders.  This position is the one 
    that has support from classical sources, and I think that most readers of 
mail_jewish, myself included, support  kollel for that purpose.  Several 
    posters have mentioned some kollelim that view their mission in that 

    The problem is that the current institution of kollel has little to do with 
    the notion of developing communal leaders or gdolei Torah.  Forget  the fact 
that the current kollel system is far larger than even the thousand to one rato 
mentioned of students to gdolim.  The posters of the kollel community to 
mail_jewish shows that the self image of the kollel community  has far more to 
do with the importance of the talmud torah going on in kollels than with 
    the education of leaders.  As such, it is indefensible.  

    The current institution of universal kollel is even destructive for the 
people who should be in kollel. The previous generation of gdolim, while 
devoting their life to Torah, grew  up in a real community, where only 
the select few went to kolle, and understood 
the needs of that community. The kollel bahurim are growing up learning 
that everyone who is  thought to be part of the Torah community sits and 
learns at the expense of the outside world.  If the pressures of  holding 
a job are felt to be incompatible with Torah existence, not just with 
being a rav, how can they possibly pasken for the general community? 

     Meir Shinnar

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From: <warren@...> (Warren Burstein)
Date: Thu, 29 Feb 1996 08:38:03 GMT
Subject: Re: Showing Up in Kollel

Carl Sherer writes:
>I think that those of us who feel that it is important that the
>community have members learning on a full time basis  have no choice but to
>trust the Roshei Yeshiva and Roshei Kollel to make that determination, and
>to assume that those who do not take their responsibilities as Kollel men
>seriously enough will have HKB"H (the Almighty) to answer to.

Perhaps this might be an appropriate attitude with regards to students
who are not granted an exemption from Army service while receiving a
stipend that comes (in part?) from state funds.

 |warren@           bein hashmashot, in which state are the survivors
/ itex.jct.ac.IL    buried?


End of Volume 23 Issue 33