Monday, June 23, 2008

The Purpose and Function of Kollel

Bluke posted a recap of an article in the Hebrew Mishpacha magazine about age discrimination in Kollelim. It seems that in Israel (I don't know if this problem exists in the United States or elsewhere) averichim over the age of forty are having difficulty getting into Kollelim. Bluke passes along some of the reasons given in the article. One of the reasons given is as follows:

Someone who is still just sitting and learing in kollel in their 40's is not going to become a Rosh Yeshiva, Rosh Kollel etc. The fact that they haven't moved up shows that they are not so successful.

When reading this, I'm left with a question: what, exactly, is the point of the Kollel system? Is it to produce the next generation of leaders/gedolim, or is it to have as many people as possible learn for as long as possible, for the learning's own sake?

If it's the former, then why do we have whole communities learning in Kollel? It should be restricted to those that show the potential/aptitude to become communal leaders in the future. Everyone else should be told to go get a job, support their families and the Kollel financially, and come back for night seder.

If it's the latter, then what difference does it make if the over-40 married man is still "just learning?" He wants to sit and learn, and we want to encourage everyone who can to sit and learn... so let him join the Kollel.

Does the Kollel system actually have a defined purpose?

The Wolf

17 comments:

Nice Jewish Guy said...

Didn't Rabbi Akiva start learning at 40?

SuperRaizy said...

Wolf, I agree, that's precisely the question that we should be asking. No institution can serve its purpose properly if that purpose is not clearly defined.

aaron from L.A. said...

Though certainly designed with a loftier purpose in mind,Kolel has deteriorated into a refuge for the unworthy who would rather not work for a living.It often ruins lives of naive women who are brainwashed into believing that such a life is Hashem's will.The lives of many young women are ruined,since they are often doomed to live in poverty while being expected to both work and raise ten kids at the same time.O daughters of Israel,If you want to look like 50 while in you're in your thirties,then kolel life is for you!

-suitepotato- said...

The Baal Shem Tov quipped once about a Talmud scholar who was so good at what he did, he through study managed to leave himself no time to think about G-d at all.

That is the purpose of kollel. Like various schools of study and so on in Catholicism, it exists to ritualize G-d right out of religion and return man to preeminence while assuaging man's guilt at doing so by heaping before himself ample evidence of his piety before a master he doesn't listen to any more.

I keep hearing it said that Shabbat is the biggest cornerstone of Judaism, but I so seldom see anyone consider what G-d did to earn a rest. He made a universe. A multiverse maybe. An omniverse. World without end, amen. Then he got to sit back and learn from it.

A man in kollel on the other hand learns all the time as if on permanent rest and creates... what?

G-d earned His rest and His reward was learning. Learning was His reward, not His act. His act was creation. If we do not create, if we do not take part in the world, what are we? What becomes of the image in which we were made?

I'd rather earn my learning by doing whatever it is I'm supposed to do, learn where it is granted to me in reward.

The CameraMan said...

I'm pretty sure that the point of the Kolell system is to have as many people as possible learning, simply for the sake of having as many people learning. This explains why the Kollel system is dominated by the Yeshivish- though there are plenty of Chasidim in learning, going to work by Chasidim is just a second choice for those not good enough to learn, not the actual tragedy it is by the Yeshivish.

Anonymous said...

The purpose of the kollel system is both to have as many people learning as possible AND to produce the next generation of rabbanim, talmidei chachamim, and roshei yeshiva. If a person feels that they can be successful learning full time, and they have a financial situation that allows for it, they will get tremendous s'char for it.

BUT and individual kollel would like to have a name for itself. Name recognition is helpful when trying to raise funds. So, if you are running a kollel and you can afford to add two people, you are going to look for people who have the greatest potential. You can't fault them for that.

As far as only letting the best sit and learn in the first place, I have heard the following explanation - the quality that makes a godol or rosh yeshiva is not necessarily being the smartest. Diligence is extremely important as is understanding human nature (in order to give the best psak there is an element of undertanding what people can follow/handle). These qualities are not necessarily so easy to spot when a person is young. So everyone starts out and the best ones float to the top (if they don't run out of money and end up working instead).

G said...

So everyone starts out and the best ones float to the top

Fair enough...just one question, what happens to/with those who do not float to the top?

Anonymous said...

You mean those who are not top learners? Either they get jobs in the general world, find jobs within the yeshiva framework (rosh kollel, rebbe,...) or they continue learning. Which is how you end up with 40+ year old men who are looking for a kollel to pay them and they are not finding one. I'm not saying what is right, just stating that this is how it is.

TheAnswer said...

The older Kollel guys are part of the tragedy of the current Israeli system. It is unavoidable to push them out the door because 3 times as many younger ones are trying to get in the door to avoid the army/work. Hence so many come here to collect - they have no choice!

ProfK said...

This was a problem around already 20 years ago and more. The head of Lakewood came to my husband's company to ask for some type of training program because there were many older men in kollel--from their 30s on, who had no preparation to make a living in the outside world and who "didn't belong" in kollel any longer. It was not explained what "didn't belong" actually meant but the intent was clear--the yeshiva needed/wanted to thin the older ranks. And 20+ years later we still have kollels looking to get rid of older students and like then, no one knows exactly why.

Anonymous said...

Who knew there were lay-offs in kollel?

Garnel Ironheart said...

The original purpose of the kollel system in Europe was to take the best and the brightest and produce the next generation of gedolim.

After the Holocaust, the system was changed to the current open-entry one so that the number of learning Jews and Rebbeim could be replenished.

The question is: now that this has clearly happened (B"H), can we finally go back to the old system?

Sanegor said...

The thing of kollel has been beaten to death so many times, I won't actually comment on it. But what does bother me is that if you view it as a sort of graduate school of yiddishkeit, then unfortunately vast majority of kollel population can't hold a candle to their counterparties in the "Goyishe" university system. A guy in his late 20-s/early 30-s who is studying seriously some fundamental or applied discipline is probably with a master's and pretty close to a Ph. D. , and often has quote a lot to say and publish on his subject of choice. Most kollel chevre, even the good ones, the masmidim, have at best a few masechtes and probably quite a few chapters in Tor/Sh"A, but it's still a far cry from the universities - especially those of past. Not to diminish the achievements, but still ...

aaron from L.A. said...

This morning I received yet another letter asking for money for an avrech. Paraphrased,the letter said "we helped him 4 decades ago,can't we help him now?"..Obviously,the man hasn't worked a day in his life.The thing that really got me is that the return envelope was addressed to a congregation in Monsey,that had "isreal" in its name.Yes,Isreal,spelled incorrectly. Now you'd think they could at least get that one right,wouldn't you?No wonder these people always need help.They have no skills,unless you count breeding.I am angry at the those who perpepetuate the kolel system as it now is.In short,it leads to misery,especially for the wives and children.I have no problem with the original concept of kolel.Kolel salaries should even be much higher than they are now,but only the cream of the crop,not the cream of the crap should be there.

Josh said...

The purpose is that one in a thousand will become a talmid chochom.The rest are just happy that they do not have to work for a living.-They just come to your door for hachnosas kala.

Mikeinmidwood said...

Interesting

The Babysitter said...

I think it's the second reason, that it's just for the sake of learning.

But at the same time the people learning have to be capable of learning. Of grasping the material and moving on to more complicated things.

It's not meant for those that have a hard time learning and will stare at the same page all day wondering what he's reading.