Tuesday, May 02, 2006

On Chai Rotel

Both Orthonomics and DovBear have posted about Rabbi Horowitz's excellent letter concerning people who give to causes such as Chai Rotel rather than to more urgent, pressing needs in the community. However, in his comments, Lakewood Yid (who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite posters to pull apart now that Heshy is gone) suggests that this isn't necesarily the case. Concerning the examples that Rabbi Horowitz bring, LY suggests that perhaps the people who should have received the money that went to Chai Rotel should have given to Chai Rotel for yeshuos!

Now, I don't know if the "yeshuos" that the Chai Rotel people promise are real or bunk (although, admittedly, my bunk-o-meter is in the red zone). Nonetheless, I'm willing to keep an open mind about this. Therefore, I'm asking Lakewood Yid (or anyone else who wants to step up to the plate) for something to back up the claims of the Chai Rotel people. Specifically, I'm looking for one of two types of evidence:

1. A study showing that people who give to Chai Rotel have their wishes fulfilled more often than those who don't. (Please note that anecdotal stories do not make a study) Studies must show the methodolgy used to be considered.

2. Some source in classic Jewish literature showing that giving Chai Rotel for people to drink in Meron on Lag B'Omer conferrs "yeshuos" to the one giving. Preferably, such source should be over 100 years old. Such sources will not automatically be considered authoritative, but will be evaluated accordingly.

Any takers? Or is Chai Rotel just a modern scam?

The Wolf


Orthonomics said...

For a fund that only boosts of two endorsements, I'm guessing that few, if any will step up to the plate for your challenge. (Note: I am really looking forward to that future column on promises of yeshuos. I want to see what Rabbi Horowitz says.)

I call these claims "black magic" and think that claims like this play off of a certain type of people (not my type, that's for sure).

So, in the meantime, I'll keep directing my money towards Jewish education and hope there will be a reward in either this world or the next for that.

Too bad that the unnamed tzadik couldn't have promised yeshuos to those who give to Jewish education. Marketing is the impetus behind giving and it seems that there is just no effective campaign for Jewish education.

Orthonomics said...

P.S. Lakewood Yid is climbing the charts, but he sure is no Heshy! LOL.

Anonymous said...

$1 millon worth of proof.

Anonymous said...

I will take the first challenge. I'll put together a team of top ranking academic researchers.

Just write a check for $20,000, Wolf.

Got it--now fill in the name of a Jewish educational project you endorse and send it to them!

Why in the world should we waste money on studies when we have real and pressing problems that face us, as R. Horowitz described?

BrooklynWolf said...

I think you missed the point, anon. The point was that unless there is some clear proof that the claims are true (and maybe even if the claims are true), our funds should be spent giving to those who need.

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

Agreed. (I'm in Israel, hence the delay).

Even if the claims are true, and it's a tried and true segulah, there's no doubt that a worthwhile tzadaka has precendence over a segulah! The Torah obligates charity, it does not obligate segulos. Could you use maaser kesafim for a segulah?

In my estimation, Log B'Omer and Uman are manifestations of the rock concert mentality. (You, I mean one, could even find Grateful Dead and plenty of dope at Log B'Omer in Meron, on the fringes. And then when you get the munchies, there's free food in an air-conditioned tent).

Meaning, the 300,000 people go to Meron because everyone goes, without thinking why. As Rabbi Moshe Aharon Stern said to students in Kamenitz, wouldn't Rabbi Shimon rather you stayed in Yeshivah and learned l'aliyas nishmaso instead of going to Meron?

Orthonomics said...

1. >>Chai Rotel isn't just a segulah. Its chesed. Fact - they are feeding 300,000 people for free.

I might agree that it is a chessed if the people could not afford their own food, etc. Running a soup kitchen for the poor is a chessed. Feeding Bill Gates lunch wouldn't qualify as a chessed in my book.

2. Are you just trying to argue Lakewood Yid, or do you really think that Chai Rotel should take precidence over Jewish Education and helping the poor buy the necessities?

Larry Lennhoff said...

I might agree that it is a chessed if the people could not afford their own food, etc. Running a soup kitchen for the poor is a chessed.

I admit to poor education in this area, but I thought one of the differences between tzedakah and gemilut chassadim was that tzedakah could only be given to the poor, while gemiult chassadim could be done for rich and poor alike?

Orthonomics said...

I was under the impression that we was referring to the chessed of providing for the poor. Hachnasat Orchim is also a mitvah (although I'm unsure if what is being done qualifies as such).

Nevertheless, Rabbi Horowitz is right on.

As to the idea one can support more than one charity, that is true too, but how about Jewish Education and Tomchai Shabbos. Chai Rotel still falls low on the totem pole IMO.

BrooklynWolf said...

Of course, there's also the issue of the way that the charities are presented.

Traditional charities such as Tomchei Shabbos, Hatzoloh, Jewish education, etc. basically present themselves as the donor doing something for someone else. Here, however, the "charity" is being presented as the donor doing himself a favor (because he gets a yeshua).

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...


It's not a matter of major mitzvah vs. a minor mitzvah.

It's a matter of taking a finite amount of resources (charity dollars, in this case) and putting them where they are most needed. And I think that we can all agree that there are greater needs than serving people alcoholic beverages at Meron on Lag B'Omer.

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

The times I've been to Meron I saw only grape juice handed out for Chai Rotel, not wine. Ten years ago it was completely unknown. It became popular because of a lot of yeshuah stories in the chareidi press after the segualah was 'rediscovered.' Especially in HaModiah. There are huge PR drives before Log B'Omer from all the hachnasas orchim groups, and it's very competitive. Some people are making a whole year's parnassah on this, I imagine, like selling esrogs.

But let's face it, it's not one of Klal Yisrael's worst excesses. It's very mild compared to a million dollar wedding, and even has many positive aspects of prayer, chessed, and Jewish unity.

I think R. Horowitz's point is well taken. Maybe he should approach the caterers in Boro Park for matching funds.

Just don't take your kids to Meron unless you want them to watch the public slaughter of dozens of sheep. Fresh BBQ lamb chops.

Orthonomics said...

Like I said on my blog's comments, "marketing is the impetus for giving."

Based on David's observations, it is obvious that someone found themself something to market and collect for, and lo and behold, there a new charity to distract us from those modest charities and the people they serve that need our help desperately.

Anonymous said...

"marketing is the impetus for giving."

That is so true and so sad. Unfortunately, truth is also subject to the same principle.

As Rabbi Simcha Wasserman said in response to a Conservative Rabbi who sat next to him on the dais, when he was asked to define the difference between Orthodox and Conservative:

Orthodoxy is like a raw potato, it's kind of lumpy and bumpy, perhaps a bit dirty. If you want mashed potatoes you have to wash them, peel, boil, mash and season them. A lot of effort.

Conservative is like an appealing packaged box of instant mashed potatoes, just add boiling water and you've got the mashed potatoes. All the appealing market forces will bring the consumers to buy the instant mashed potatoes.

But put them in the ground, what will give you a new generation of potatoes--the box or the real potato?

We have to contend with the marketing forces against us, but in the long run--the modest, humble truth will last.

Orthonomics said...

Thanks for bringing this statement of R. Wasserman to our attention.

Anonymous said...

"it is obvious that someone found themself something to market and collect for, and lo and behold, there a new charity to distract us from those modest charities and the people they serve that need our help desperately."

So you happen not to like feeding these particular orchim. Do you ever have orchim in your home? Do you only provide meals to poor people or do you ever host friends and family or even strangers who can afford to feed themselves?

I don't think anybody "found" something to market and collect for and consider that rather snide. As quoted earlier, we have reputable sources for celebrating in Miron on Lag B'Omer. And a source was provided for giving 18 Rotel.

Nobody says YOU have to give towards this event but how about respecting other people's choice to support it?