In trying to counter my argument that the source of the problem of poverty is the lack of proper education of the Charedi school system, my good friend David Brand references an article entitled A Tale Of Two Students by Rabbi Avi Shafran written a few years ago. In the article Rabbi Shafran tries to compare the relatively positive attitude of society for one who studies many years for a PhD in an obscure field in a university... to the highly negative attitude society has for one who studies Torah for many years in a Kollel. He complains that Torah study is at least as valuable as, say, Scottish Literature (in the example quoted) and should be treated with no less respect. And this argument is used to advocate for at least equal government financial support for an advanced Torah student as is provided to an advanced student of Scottish literature. This is an argument I have heard many times and in fact, I have used it myself.
On the surface it seems fair. But let’s consider the facts. The relative numbers of Scottish Literature students in comparison to the entire community from which those students are drawn is relatively small. An argument can be made that a few experts in Scottish Literature can indeed be beneficial to society at large. But no one would make the argument that every male member of that particular society should be studying Scottish literature and be subsidized for it. That is the reality of what Charedi society asking for. They encourage every male member of their society to seek a life of learning Torah for as long as possible and demand that the government
subsidize it. This is wrong. It should not be subsidized to this extent.
Rabbi Shafran would be right if he was asking this for the best and brightest of the Torah world who seek to become “experts” in their field. They should be supported. There should be no less support for Torah learning then there is for supporting a few experts in Scottish literature. But to support everyone... forever is unfair and counterproductive. It should be discouraged.
And this is why I have stopped supporting Chinuch Atzmai, the financial agency responsible for collecting money for Torah schools for Israel. The argument, which I bought into for many decades is that Chinuch Atzmai is the only Torah true educational system and does not get anywhere near enough funding from the secularist anti-Torah Israeli government. And this may be true, but the product they produce is not the one they advertise. Yes, they produce knowledgeable Bnei Torah with great potential for greatness, but they also produce masses of mediocrity that are otherwise unproductive and unable to properly support their families. Chinuch Atzmai is responsible for perpetuating this system by funding it unquestioningly. Of course that isn’t what you hear when they come knocking on your door. They only talk about the anti-Torah bias of the Knesset claiming that Chinch Atzmai is the only way to save Yiddishkeit.
To be clear, I do not support the destruction of Charedi education, Chas VeShalom. I support the goals of educating our young people in Torah and Mitzvah observance. I even support the goals of producing Gedolim... with all the intensive study that takes. But what I do not support is a system that promotes poverty and refuses to do anything about it; a system that doesn’t even acknowledge a problem ...or if it does... refuses to do anything about it. It is not enough to just know a problem exists when there is no willingness change. For Chinuch Atzmai to continue promoting itself as the savior of Yiddishkeit without ever mentioning its serious flaws is disingenuous at best.
Chinuch Atzmai is harming Klal Yisroel with the good intentions of funding Torah education and producing Gedolim. But the cost is too high and the exclusivist "Torah only" approach totally unnecessary.
Rav Schach Assur'd a school like Maarava which is basically a Charedi type Yeshiva high school modeled after those in America that have Limudei Chol as part of their daily schedule (...like Philly and Telshe). He explained that any studies that take away from learning undermines the very foundation of our Torah society and its educational system. Bnei Torah have no business doing anything other than learning Torah full time from the time of their Bar Mitzvah onward. But he did not see the Nolad of such a policy. He saw that it was viable... it was working. Those who end up needing Parnassa would leave and... find a way to earn a living somehow.
But he was wrong. He ...did not see this Nolad. But we can now see the next: large families growing exponentially in coming generations with no realistic Parnassa opportunities for lack of preparation. ...and no parents “back home” who can help them out because as I said in my last post, parents and even grandparents will all be in the same ill prepared Parnassa boat.
It is time to demand accountability from the Yeshiva system. We can no longer afford to perpetuate the system by funding it unquestioningly.