Sunday, August 09, 2009

Quantity or Quality?

A guest post by Hasafran

At the risk of bringing on a beating, I have to ask: in Europe, pre-War, how many students learned at yeshiva and kollel? And, today, in America, how many?

I'm going to take an educated guess (based on personal observations, what I have read, and what my grandparents and rebbeim have told me over the years): there are A LOT more people who do so today.

Without going into whether or not more yidden sitting and learning is good for Klal Yisroel as a whole (because, basically, this is immaterial to what I am asking, IMO), the awesome reality pre-War Europe, the vast majority of yidden had little money (certainly not the way we do today), so what were their options?

1) If the student was exceptionally bright, off to yeshiva they went.
2) If not, then "work, work, work, morning, noon and night", as the song goes.

It's wonderful that in THIS Galut, here in America, Hashem has made it possible for yidden (as a whole) to be wealthier than ever before. And in doing so, it has enabled more and more young men to sit and study full time. But there is a price to pay for it, and we are now seeing it.

I'm not saying close down yeshivot and/or kollels, or C"VS anything like that, makes you wonder if the chareidi velt today had the same standards for full-time shteigers as they did 80 years ago, would things be different?

I have a hard time believing that there are SO many more top-level talmidei chachomim today than just 2-3 generations ago. Obviously, a fair number of people sitting and learning full-time today would NEVER have made it into the batei midrashot of the yeshivas of Europe. But instead of going out and working for a living (and still being able to learn afterwards) and being able to support (at least somewhat) their families, they drain the precious few resources available to that community. And even if they wanted to go earn a living, the overall denigration of those who do this in the community acts as a virtual wall (not to mention the REAL wall that is a lack of a comprehensive basic secular education), stopping many from doing so.

Why can't the rabbonim and rebbeim and roshei yeshivot and mashgichei ruchani see this? Is it really their wish (and is it really good for Klal Yisroel) to have so many people living like this? Is quantity a measurement that has overtaken quality when it comes to learning full-time?

How can we continue to exist when everyone wants to be Yissochor and few are being trained to be Zevulun?

I don't mean to be divisive or point fingers, but I've been thinking about this for a while, and I just don't get it.

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